Biofortification of pearl millet with iron and zinc in a randomized controlled trial increases absorption of these minerals above physiologic requirements in young children

J Nutr. 2013 Sep;143(9):1489-93. doi: 10.3945/jn.113.176677. Epub 2013 Jul 10.


Millet is unusually drought resistant and consequently there is a progressive increase in the use of these grains as a human food staple, especially in large areas of India and sub-Saharan Africa. The purpose of this study was to determine the absorption of iron and zinc from pearl millet biofortified with 2 micronutrients that are typically deficient in nonfortified, plant-based diets globally. The study was undertaken in 40 children aged 2 y in Karnataka, India (n = 21 test/19 controls). Three test meals providing ∼84 ± 17 g dry pearl millet flour were fed on a single day for zinc and 2 d for iron between 0900 and 1600 h. The quantities of zinc and iron absorbed were measured with established stable isotope extrinsic labeling techniques and analyses of duplicate diets. The mean (± SD) quantities of iron absorbed from test and control groups were 0.67 ± 0.48 and 0.23 ± 0.15 mg/d, respectively (P < 0.001). The quantities of zinc absorbed were 0.95 ± 0.47 and 0.67 ± 0.24 mg/d, respectively (P = 0.03). These data did not include absorption of the modest quantities of iron and zinc contained in snacks eaten before and after the 3 test meals. In conclusion, quantities of both iron and zinc absorbed when iron and zinc biofortified pearl millet is fed to children aged 2 y as the major food staple is more than adequate to meet the physiological requirements for these micronutrients.

Trial registration: NCT01783067.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Edible Grain / chemistry
  • Female
  • Food, Fortified*
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • India
  • Iron / deficiency
  • Iron, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Iron, Dietary / pharmacokinetics
  • Male
  • Pennisetum / chemistry*
  • Zinc / administration & dosage*
  • Zinc / deficiency
  • Zinc / pharmacokinetics


  • Biomarkers
  • Hemoglobins
  • Iron, Dietary
  • Iron
  • Zinc

Associated data