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J Pediatr. 2006 Nov;149(5 Suppl):S64-8.

Changes in zinc absorption during development.

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Section of Nutrition, Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO 80262, USA.


Zinc (Zn) nutrition is of special practical importance in infants and young children, however relatively little is known about maturation and comparative aspects of Zn absorption. The principal objective of this paper is to compare Zn absorption of term infants, preterm infants, and adults on low phytate diets. Existing data derived from using Zn stable isotopes as extrinsic labels for an entire day were modeled with saturation kinetic analysis (saturable response model). When adjusted for differences in length of small intestine, the efficiency of Zn absorption for both term (4 months) and preterm (33 weeks post-conception) infants was comparable with that for adults, suggesting early maturation of mechanisms that regulate absorption. However, infant intestinal lengths were shorter, and Zn absorptive capacity was proportionately less. Reduced capacity was matched by lower Zn requirements for normal term infants. This favorable match, however, did not occur in the preterm infant because of relatively high Zn requirements. Although intestinal conservation of endogenous Zn in these preterm infants was appropriate in relation to the quantity of Zn absorbed, it was not optimal for achieving the retention required. Normal homeostatic mechanisms in the premature infant prevented efficient absorption of the quantity of Zn required or/and optimal conservation of endogenous Zn.

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