Zinc homeostasis in Malawian children consuming a high-phytate, maize-based diet

Mark J. Manary, Christine Hotz, Nancy F. Krebs, Rosalind S. Gibson, Jamie E. Westcott, Robin L. Broadhead, K. Michael Hambidge

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Background: Zinc deficiency in children is an important public health concern in the developing world, and the consumption of predominantly cereal-based diets with a high phytate content may contribute to the risk. The gastrointestinal tract plays a central role in absorbing and conserving zinc, yet it has not been carefully studied in such children. Objective: This study investigated zinc homeostasis in healthy, free-living Malawian children with habitually high-phytate diets to better understand the role of the gastrointestinal tract. Design: We evaluated zinc homeostasis in 10 children aged 2-5 y who were consuming a maize-based diet (phytate:zinc molar ratio of 23:1). Zinc stable isotopes were administered orally and intravenously. The tracer and tracee were measured in urine and feces. Results: Endogenous fecal zinc was high in comparison with results for this measure in previous studies. Typical correlations seen in subjects consuming a low-phytate diet between total absorbed zinc, the size of the exchangeable zinc pool, and endogenous fecal zinc were not observed. Fractional absorption of zinc was 0.24. Conclusions: Zinc homeostasis was perturbed, particularly by large, endogenous fecal zinc losses, in this vulnerable population. The effects of interventions to improve zinc status, including dietary phytate reduction, on zinc homeostasis merit further study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1057-1061
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 3 2002


  • Children
  • Malawi
  • Phytate
  • Stable isotopes
  • Zinc
  • Zinc homeostasis

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    Manary, M. J., Hotz, C., Krebs, N. F., Gibson, R. S., Westcott, J. E., Broadhead, R. L., & Michael Hambidge, K. (2002). Zinc homeostasis in Malawian children consuming a high-phytate, maize-based diet. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 75(6), 1057-1061.