Zinc absorption from biofortified maize meets the requirements of young rural Zambian children

J Nutr. 2015 Mar;145(3):514-9. doi: 10.3945/jn.114.204933. Epub 2015 Jan 21.


Background: The zinc content of maize, a major global food staple, is generally insufficient alone to meet the requirements of young children.

Objectives: The primary objective of this study was to determine whether substitution of biofortified maize (34 μg zinc/g grain) for control maize (21 μg zinc/g) was adequate to meet zinc physiologic requirements in young children for whom maize was the major food staple. A secondary objective was to compare total daily zinc absorption when maize flour was fortified with zinc oxide to a total concentration of 60 μg zinc/g.

Methods: Participants included 60 rural Zambian children with a mean age of 29 mo who were randomly assigned to receive 1 of 3 maize types (control, biofortified, or fortified) all of which were readily consumed (>100 g on 1 d). Total daily zinc intake (from maize and low-zinc relish) was determined from duplicate diet collections. Multiplication by fractional absorption of zinc, measured by a dual isotope ratio technique, determined the total daily zinc absorption on the day the test meals were given.

Results: The mean ± SD total daily zinc intake (milligrams per day) from the biofortified maize (5.0 ± 2.2) was higher (P < 0.0001) than for the control maize (2.3 ± 0.9). Intake of zinc from the fortified maize (6.3 ± 2.6) did not differ from the biofortified maize. Fractional absorption of zinc from control maize (0.28 ± 0.10) did not differ from the biofortified maize (0.22 ± 0.06). Total daily absorption of zinc (milligrams per day) from the biofortified maize (1.1 ± 0.5) was higher (P = 0.0001) than for the control maize (0.6 ± 0.2), but did not differ from the fortified maize (1.2 ± 0.4).

Conclusions: These results indicate that feeding biofortified maize can meet zinc requirements and provide an effective dietary alternative to regular maize for this vulnerable population. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT02208635.

Keywords: Zambia; biofortification; fortified; maize; physiologic zinc requirement; young children; zinc absorption.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Flour / analysis
  • Food, Fortified*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Rural Population*
  • Zea mays / chemistry*
  • Zinc / administration & dosage*
  • Zinc / pharmacokinetics*


  • Zinc

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02208635