Effect of protein level and protein source on zinc absorption in humans

J Nutr. 1989 Jan;119(1):48-53. doi: 10.1093/jn/119.1.48.


The effect of increasing levels of various protein sources on zinc absorption from a legume-based meal was studied in humans with the use of a radionuclide technique. The meals were extrinsically labelled with 65Zn and absorption was determined from measurements of the whole-body retention of the isotope. The mean fractional zinc absorption for the 13 meals was 24.7 +/- 6.9% and was only influenced by the protein content of the meal to a limited extent (r = 0.45). However, the amount of zinc absorbed from the meals was strongly correlated with both the protein (r = 0.85) and zinc content (r = 0.86): 5.9 +/- 1.7 mumol of zinc was absorbed from the basal bean meal which had the lowest protein content; the addition of low zinc chicken doubled the protein content and increased zinc absorption to 10.3 +/- 2.0 mumol; the addition of zinc-rich beef also doubled the protein content, however, zinc absorption was increased to 15.9 +/- 4.7 mumol. It is concluded that the zinc content of the main protein source of the diet determines the amount of zinc absorbed to a large extent. However, relatively small amounts of animal protein can significantly improve the value of a legume-based meal as a source of zinc.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dietary Proteins / metabolism
  • Dietary Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Fabaceae
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Male
  • Meat
  • Phytic Acid / analysis
  • Plant Proteins, Dietary / pharmacology
  • Plants, Medicinal
  • Whole-Body Counting
  • Zinc / administration & dosage
  • Zinc / pharmacokinetics*


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Plant Proteins, Dietary
  • Phytic Acid
  • Zinc