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Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jan;89(1):185-90. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26887. Epub 2008 Dec 3.

Iron supplementation does not affect copper and zinc absorption in breastfed infants.

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Department of Clinical Sciences, Pediatrics, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden.



Iron supplements are commonly recommended for infants but were suggested to inhibit zinc and copper absorption.


The objective of this study was to investigate potential effects of iron supplementation, infant age, and mineral status on zinc and copper absorption in infants at 6 and 9 mo of age.


Twenty-five healthy breastfed term infants were recruited from a larger randomized iron supplementation trial. Six of these infants received iron supplements (1 mg . kg(-1) . d(-1)) from 4 to 9 mo, 8 were supplemented from 6 to 9 mo, and 11 received placebo only. Zinc and copper absorption was measured at 6 and 9 mo of age, using orally administered (70)Zn and (65)Cu and fecal monitoring of recovered stable isotopes.


Mean (+/-SD) zinc absorption was 51.9 +/- 17.9%, and mean copper absorption was 79.0 +/- 13.5%. No significant difference was observed in zinc or copper absorption between 6 and 9 mo of age. When combining all measurements, no significant effect of prior iron supplementation was observed on zinc or copper absorption. No significant correlation was observed between plasma zinc and zinc absorption or between plasma copper and copper absorption. No significant correlation was observed between erythrocyte copper-zinc-dependent superoxide dismutase activity and copper absorption.


The study does not support the contention that iron supplements inhibit the absorption of zinc or copper in healthy breastfed infants at 6-9 mo of age. In addition, we did not find any age-related changes in zinc or copper absorption between 6 and 9 mo of age.

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