The Problem with ZincMarch 25/Health & Medicine Week -- "Zinc deficiency is a major public health problem in many developing countries. However, its prevalence is still unknown in most populations," investigators in Bergen, Norway report.

"Women of reproductive age in developing countries are highly vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies, including that of zinc. To estimate the prevalence of zinc deficiency and to identify important dietary sources of zinc, we undertook a cross-sectional survey in 500 nonpregnant Nepalese women and measured their plasma zinc concentrations. We also examined the associations between plasma zinc and dietary intake of zinc or phytate, iron status, plasma concentrations of C-reactive protein, albumin, and hemoglobin. Food intake was estimated by two 24-h dietary recalls and 1 FFQ for each woman. The plasma zinc concentration was (mean +/- SD) 8.5 +/- 2.4 mu mol/L, and more than three-quarters of the women were zinc deficient. Dietary zinc intake did not predict plasma zinc concentration, whereas phytate intake was negatively and significantly associated with plasma zinc. The other variables that were associated with plasma zinc were plasma albumin and hemoglobin concentration. Rice contributed 50% to the total estimated daily zinc intake and wheat and meat each contributed 15%. Rice also contributed 68% to the daily intake of phytate," wrote R.K. Chandyo and colleagues, University of Bergen.

The researchers concluded, "We found that zinc deficiency was common in women of reproductive age and that the foods contributing substantial amounts of zinc also contributed importantly to the intake of phytate. J. Nutr. 139: 594-597, 2009."

Chandyo and colleagues published their study in the Journal of Nutrition ("Zinc Deficiency Is Common among Healthy Women of Reproductive Age in Bhaktapur, Nepal." Journal of Nutrition, 2009;139(3):594-597).

For additional information, contact T.A. Strand, University of Bergen, Center International Health, N-5020 Bergen, Norway.

From the March 30, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition