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Food Nutr Bull. 2016 Dec;37(4):443-460. Epub 2016 Jun 16.

A Review of Dietary Zinc Recommendations.

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University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Oakland, CA, USA.
University of Central Lancashire, Preston, United Kingdom.



Large discrepancies exist among the dietary zinc recommendations set by expert groups.


To describe the basis for the differences in the dietary zinc recommendations set by the World Health Organization, the US Institute of Medicine, the International Zinc Nutrition Consultative Group, and the European Food Safety Agency.


We compared the sources of the data, the concepts, and methods used by the 4 expert groups to set the physiological requirements for absorbed zinc, the dietary zinc requirements (termed estimated and/or average requirements), recommended dietary allowances (or recommended nutrient intakes or population reference intakes), and tolerable upper intake levels for selected age, sex, and life-stage groups.


All 4 expert groups used the factorial approach to estimate the physiological requirements for zinc. These are based on the estimates of absorbed zinc required to offset all obligatory zinc losses plus any additional requirements for absorbed zinc for growth, pregnancy, or lactation. However, discrepancies exist in the reference body weights used, studies selected, approaches to estimate endogenous fecal zinc (EFZ) losses, the adjustments applied to derive dietary zinc requirements that take into account zinc bioavailability in the habitual diets, number of dietary zinc recommendations set, and the nomenclature used to describe them.


Estimates for the physiological and dietary requirements varied across the 4 expert groups. The European Food Safety Agency was the only expert group that set dietary zinc recommendations at 4 different levels of dietary phytate for adults (but not for children) and as of yet no tolerable upper intake level for any life-stage group.


dietary recommendations; expert groups; factorial approach; physiological requirements; zinc

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