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Zinc Fortification: Current Trends and Strategies


Zinc, through its structural and cofactor roles, affects a broad range of critical physiological functions, including growth, metabolism, immune and neurological functions. Zinc deficiency is widespread among populations around the world, and it may, therefore, underlie much of the global burden of malnutrition. Current zinc fortification strategies include biofortification and fortification with zinc salts with a primary focus on staple foods, such as wheat or rice and their products. However, zinc fortification presents unique challenges. Due to the influences of phytate and protein on zinc absorption, successful zinc fortification strategies should consider the impact on zinc bioavailability in the whole diet. When zinc is absorbed with food, shifts in plasma zinc concentrations are minor. However, co-absorbing zinc with food may preferentially direct zinc to cellular compartments where zinc-dependent metabolic processes primarily occur. Although the current lack of sensitive biomarkers of zinc nutritional status reduces the capacity to assess the impact of fortifying foods with zinc, new approaches for assessing zinc utilization are increasing. In this article, we review the tools available for assessing bioavailable zinc, approaches for evaluating the zinc nutritional status of populations consuming zinc fortified foods, and recent trends in fortification strategies to increase zinc absorption.

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