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Trace Minerals Beneficial for Burns

Twenty-one patients (mean age, 35 years) with burns on a mean of 45% of body surface area were randomly assigned to receive daily intravenous infusions of either 1) zinc (37.5 mg), copper (3.75 mg), and selenium (375 mcg), administered in 250 ml of 0.9% saline over 12 hours; or 2) saline alone (control). Treatment was started within 12 hours of the burn and was continued for 14 days if the burn covered 20-60% of body surface area or for 21 days if the burn exceeded 60% of surface area.

The mean number of infections per patient during the first 30 days was lower in the trace mineral group than in the control group (2.1 vs. 3.6; 42% reduction; p = 0.01). This reduction was due primarily to a decrease in the number of pulmonary infections (p = 0.03). Wound healing was also improved in the trace mineral group, with lower requirements for re-grafting (P = 0.02).

Comment by Alan Gaby, M.D.:

Burn patients have trace mineral deficiencies, due largely to large cutaneous losses of these and other nutrients. The severe depression of immune function seen in burn patients may be due in part to these mineral deficiencies. The results of the present study indicate that intravenous administration of zinc, copper, and selenium can improve clinical outcome in patients with severe burns, including fewer pulmonary infections and better wound healing.

Deficiencies of many other nutrients also occur in burn patients, and some of these nutrients (such as protein, vitamin C, magnesium, and vitamin D) play an important role in immune function. It is likely that vigorous supplementation with all essential nutrients would be more effective for preventing infections and promoting healing than would supplementation with trace minerals alone.


Berger MM, et al. Trace element supplementation after major burns modulates antioxidant status and clinical course by way of increased tissue trace element concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:1293-1300.

Reprinted with exclusive permission from The Townsend Letter, October 2007.

Key concepts: trace minerals, zinc, copper, selenium, burns, infection