Dr. Ananda Prasad, M.D., Ph.D., distinguished professor of Internal Medicine in the Department of Oncology at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and a member of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Wayne State University School of Medicine, has received a congressional commendation for his lifelong studies involving zinc as an element essential for human survival.
Dr. Prasad received the commendation at the request of U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Detroit). Clarke’s recommendation for commendation was read into the Congressional Record.
“During the past 50 years, Dr. Prasad has been at the forefront of scientific discoveries regarding zinc and zinc supplements,” Clarke said. “His work has saved countless lives in African and Asian countries, including his home country of India. In certain areas of South Asia where the infant mortality rate was a high as 85 percent, Dr. Prasad successfully worked to lower the mortality rate to 15 percent.”
Dr. Prasad received similar recognition from U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Both Stabenow and Clarke mentioned Dr. Prasad receiving the 2010 Mahidol Award in the Field of Public Health for his groundbreaking research. The award is presented annually by the Prince Mahidol Award Foundation of Thailand.
Recognizing researchers and physicians for outstanding contribution in the field of public health “for the sake of the well-being of the people,” the honor includes a medal, a certificate and $50,000.
"I was truly surprised but greatly honored to receive the commendation certificate from Congressman Hansen Clarke and Sen. Debbie Stabenow," Dr. Prasad said. "I have never been a part of the congressional record until now, and I am indeed thrilled with this honor."
Dr. Prasad has made important strides researching the mineral zinc, as well as contributing significantly to the field of hematology and sickle cell disease. His work with zinc began when one of his former professors received an invitation from the Shah of Iran to establish a medical curriculum at the University of Shiraz Medical School and invited Dr. Prasad to accompany him.
Two weeks after his arrival, a 21-year-old man who looked like an 8-year-old boy came to Dr. Prasad. The patient lacked secondary male characteristics, was considered mentally lethargic and consumed clay as part of his diet. Dr. Prasad diagnosed the man's condition as extreme anemia, but couldn't understand how such a condition came about because most males do not develop anemia without bleeding.
The condition was so prevalent in Iran that it was considered an epidemic. Dr. Prasad studied the condition and hypothesized that because plants do not grow without sufficient zinc, perhaps people do not either. In the developed world, zinc abounds in a variety of food sources, such as fresh fish, red meat, oysters and dairy products. In developing countries, diets primarily consist of breads and grains, which contain phytate, a substance that binds zinc and iron and prevents both minerals from being absorbed by the human body.
In 1961, Dr. Prasad published an article in the American Journal of Medicine suggesting for the first time that zinc deficiency could account for human growth retardation. In a subsequent paper based on studies done in similar dwarfs from Egypt, Dr. Prasad established the study subjects were zinc deficient.
This paper was published in The Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine in 1963 and later was republished in 1990 as a landmark article in the same journal. After the publication of these papers, Dr. Prasad started administering zinc through clinical trials, and his subjects began growing taller and developing male characteristics.
Since then, Dr. Prasad has continued to study the role zinc plays in human development. In 1975, he suggested the National Research Council set the Recommended Daily Allowance for zinc to 15 milligrams per day. In December 2009, TIME magazine named zinc the “miracle mineral.”We congratulate Dr. Prasad on his congressional commendation!