Upregulation of Zinc Absorption Matches Increases in Physiologic Requirements for Zinc in Women Consuming High- or Moderate-Phytate Diets during Late Pregnancy and Early Lactation

J Nutr. 2017 Jun;147(6):1079-1085. doi: 10.3945/jn.116.245902. Epub 2017 Apr 19.


Background: Estimated physiologic requirements (PRs) for zinc increase in late pregnancy and early lactation, but the effect on dietary zinc requirements is uncertain.Objective: The aim of this study was to determine changes in daily fractional absorbed zinc and total absorbed zinc (TAZ) from ad libitum diets of differing phytate contents in relation to physiologic zinc requirements during pregnancy and lactation.Methods: This was a prospective observational study of zinc absorption at 8 (phase 1) and 34 (phase 2) wk of gestation and 2 (phase 3) and 6 (phase 4) mo of lactation. Participants were indigenous Guatemalan women of childbearing age whose major food staple was maize and who had been randomly assigned in a larger study to either of 2 ad libitum feeding groups: low-phytate maize (LP; 1.6 mg/g; n = 14) or control maize (C; 7.1 mg/g; n = 8). Total dietary zinc (milligrams per day, TDZ) and phytate (milligrams per day) were determined from duplicate diets and fractional absorption (FAZ) by dual isotope ratio technique (TAZ = TDZ × FAZ). All variables were examined longitudinally and by group and compared with PRs. TAZ values at later phases were compared with phase 1. Measured TAZ was compared with predicted TAZ for nonpregnant, nonlactating (NPNL) women.Results: TAZ was greater in the LP group than in the C group at all phases. All variables increased from phase 1 to phases 2 and 3 and declined at phase 4. TAZ increased by 1.25 mg/d (P = 0.045) in the C group and by 0.81 mg/d (P = 0.058) in the LP group at phase 2. At phase 3, the increases were 2.66 mg/d (P = 0.002) in the C group and 2.28 mg/d (P = 0.0004) in the LP group, compared with a 1.37-mg/d increase in PR. Measured TAZ was greater than predicted values in phases 2-4.Conclusions: Upregulation of zinc absorption in late pregnancy and early lactation matches increases in PRs of pregnant and lactating women, regardless of dietary phytate, which has implications for dietary zinc requirements of pregnant and lactating women.

Keywords: absorption; bioavailability; diet; lactation; maize; phytate; pregnancy; zinc.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biological Availability
  • Diet*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Gestational Age*
  • Guatemala
  • Humans
  • Indians, Central American
  • Intestinal Absorption*
  • Lactation* / physiology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Phytic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Phytic Acid / adverse effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Prospective Studies
  • Up-Regulation
  • Zea mays / chemistry
  • Zinc / deficiency
  • Zinc / metabolism*


  • Phytic Acid
  • Zinc