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Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Jul;66(1):80-8.

Zinc absorption in women during pregnancy and lactation: a longitudinal study.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of California Berkeley, USA.


Zinc is essential for normal fetal growth and development and for milk production during lactation. The metabolic adjustments made in zinc utilization to meet these needs have not been described. The purpose of this study was to determine whether fractional zinc absorption (FZA) is altered during pregnancy and lactation and, if so, to determine whether the change is related to maternal zinc status, specifically, concentrations of zinc in plasma, erythrocytes, urine, and breast milk and dietary zinc intake. Thirteen women were studied at five time points: once preconception; at 8-10, 24-26, and 34-36 wk gestation; and once while they were lactating 7-9 wk postpartum. Zinc intake increased by 35 mumol/d (2.3 mg/d) from preconception to 34-36 wk (P = 0.04); it tended to decrease (P > 0.05) during lactation but did not return to the preconception level. The amount of zinc in breast milk averaged 2.0 mg/d at the lactation time point. FZA measured from urinary enrichments of two stable isotopes of zinc increased from 14% preconception to 25% during lactation (P = 0.023) but the increase to 19% at 34-36 wk gestation was not significant. No increase in FZA occurred in four women who took iron supplements during lactation. FZA was negatively correlated with plasma zinc concentration at 34-36 wk gestation and with urinary zinc excretion at all time points. The nearly twofold increase in zinc absorption during lactation was presumably in response to the demand for zinc to synthesize breast milk.

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