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Biometals. 2012 Aug;25(4):657-64. doi: 10.1007/s10534-012-9524-z.

Acute inhibition of iron bioavailability by zinc: studies in humans.

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Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology (INTA), University of Chile, Santiago, Chile.


Iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) deficiencies constitute two of the most important nutritional and public health problems affecting developing countries. Combined supplementation or fortification with Zn and Fe are strategies that can be used to improve the Zn and Fe status of a population. However, there is concern about potential negative interactions between these two micronutrients due to a competitive binding to DMT1 and Zip14 transporter. Studies performed in humans have shown an inhibitory effect of Zn on Fe absorption when both minerals are given together as a solution in fasting conditions. We found that at low doses of iron (0.5 mg) the threshold for the inhibition of iron bioavailability was at a Zn:Fe wt/wt ratio ≥5.9:1, whereas at higher doses of Fe (10 mg) this inhibition occurred at 1:1 Zn:Fe wt/wt ratio. This differential response could be explained by the variation in the abundance of both cations as they compete for a limited number of shared transporters at the enterocyte. Conflicting results have been obtained when this interaction was studied in different food matrices. A negative interaction was not observed when Fe and Zn were provided in a composite hamburger meal, premature formula, human milk, or cow milk. A decrease on Fe absorption was observed in only 1 of 3 studies when Fe and Zn were supplied in wheat flour. The possibility of a negative interaction should be considered for supplementation or fortification programs with both microminerals.

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