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Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May;91(5):1478S-1483S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.28674I. Epub 2010 Mar 3.

Zinc bioavailability and homeostasis.

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Department of Pediatrics, Section of Nutrition, University of Colorado Denver, Denver, CO, USA.


Zinc has earned recognition recently as a micronutrient of outstanding and diverse biological, clinical, and global public health importance. Regulation of absorption by zinc transporters in the enterocyte, together with saturation kinetics of the absorption process into and across the enterocyte, are the principal means by which whole-body zinc homeostasis is maintained. Several physiologic factors, most notably the quantity of zinc ingested, determine the quantity of zinc absorbed and the efficiency of absorption. Other factors are age and the time over which zinc is ingested. Zinc from supplements has not been shown to be absorbed differently from that taken with meals that lack inhibitors of zinc absorption. The principal dietary factor known to impair zinc bioavailability is inositol hexa- (and penta-) phosphate or phytate. Modeling of zinc absorption as a function of dietary zinc and phytate accounts for >80% of the variability in the quantity of zinc absorbed. Fitting the model to new data has resulted in continual improvement in parameter estimates, which currently indicate a maximal absorption in adults of approximately 6 mg Zn/d and that the average estimated dietary requirement doubles with 1000 mg dietary phytate/d. Intestinal excretion of endogenous zinc is regulated in response to recent absorption and to zinc status. The quantitative relation of intestinal excretion of endogenous zinc to zinc absorption is currently considered to be of major importance in the determination of zinc requirements. The effects of phytate on intestinal losses of endogenous zinc merit further investigation but are probably not of the same magnitude as its inhibitory effects on absorption of exogenous zinc.

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