Zinc absorption from micronutrient powder is low but is not affected by iron in Kenyan infants

Nutrients. 2014 Dec;6(12):5636-51. doi: 10.3390/nu6125636.


Interference with zinc absorption is a proposed explanation for adverse effects of supplemental iron in iron-replete children in malaria endemic settings. We examined the effects of iron in micronutrient powder (MNP) on zinc absorption after three months of home fortification with MNP in maize-based diets in rural Kenyan infants. In a double blind design, six-month-old, non-anemic infants were randomized to MNP containing 5 mg zinc, with or without 12.5 mg of iron (MNP + Fe and MNP − Fe, respectively); a control (C) group received placebo powder. After three months, duplicate diet collections and zinc stable isotopes were used to measure intake from MNP + non-breast milk foods and fractional absorption of zinc (FAZ) by dual isotope ratio method; total absorbed zinc (TAZ, mg/day) was calculated from intake × FAZ. Mean (SEM) TAZ was not different between MNP + Fe (n = 10) and MNP - Fe (n = 9) groups: 0.85 (0.22) and 0.72 (0.19), respectively, but both were higher than C (n = 9): 0.24 (0.03) (p = 0.04). Iron in MNP did not significantly alter zinc absorption, but despite intakes over double estimated dietary requirement, both MNP groups' mean TAZ barely approximated the physiologic requirement for age. Impaired zinc absorption may dictate need for higher zinc doses in vulnerable populations.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02101723.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Child Development
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Gastrointestinal Absorption*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Iron / administration & dosage*
  • Kenya
  • Micronutrients / administration & dosage*
  • Micronutrients / metabolism*
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutritional Status
  • Powders
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Gain
  • Zinc / administration & dosage*
  • Zinc / metabolism*


  • Micronutrients
  • Powders
  • Iron
  • Zinc

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02101723