Neither a zinc supplement nor phytate-reduced maize nor their combination enhance growth of 6- to 12-month-old Guatemalan infants

J Nutr. 2010 May;140(5):1041-8. doi: 10.3945/jn.109.115154. Epub 2010 Mar 24.


After age 6 mo, the combination of breast-feeding and unfortified plant-based complementary feeding provides inadequate zinc (Zn). Additionally, high phytate intakes compromise the bioavailability of zinc. Our principal objective in this randomized controlled, doubly masked trial was to determine the effect of substituting low-phytate maize, a daily 5-mg zinc supplement, or both, in infants between ages 6-12 mo on impaired linear growth velocity, a common feature of zinc deficiency. In the Western Highlands of Guatemala, 412 infants were randomized to receive low-phytate or control maize. Within each maize group, infants were further randomized to receive a zinc supplement or placebo. Length, weight, and head circumference were measured at 6, 9, and 12 mo of age. There were no significant differences between the 2 maize groups or between the Zn supplement and placebo groups and no treatment interaction was observed for length-for-age (LAZ), weight-for-length (WLZ) or head circumference Z-scores. Overall mean (+/- SD) Z-scores at 6 mo for combined treatment groups were: LAZ, -2.1 +/- 1.1; WLZ, 0.7 +/- 1.0; and head circumference Z-score, -0.7.0 +/- 1.0. At 12 mo, these had declined further to: LAZ, -2.5 +/- 1.1; WLZ, -0.0 +/- 0.9; and head circumference Z-score, -0.9 +/- 1.1; 83.3% were stunted and 2% were wasted. Low linear growth in older Guatemalan infants was not improved with either low-phytate maize or a daily 5-mg zinc supplement. Low contribution of maize to the complementary food of the infants negated any potential advantage of feeding low-phytate maize.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Size / drug effects
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Growth Disorders / epidemiology
  • Growth Disorders / therapy*
  • Guatemala / epidemiology
  • Head
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Phytic Acid / adverse effects
  • Plant Preparations / pharmacology
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use*
  • Trace Elements / deficiency
  • Trace Elements / pharmacology
  • Trace Elements / therapeutic use*
  • Wasting Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Wasting Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Zea mays*
  • Zinc / deficiency
  • Zinc / pharmacology
  • Zinc / therapeutic use*


  • Plant Preparations
  • Trace Elements
  • Phytic Acid
  • Zinc