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Nutrients 2015, 7(1), 572-583;

The Relevance of the Colon to Zinc Nutrition

School of Medicine, Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide 5001, Australia
CSIRO Food and Nutrition Flagship, Gate 13, Kintore Ave, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia
School of Medicine, Washington University, St Louis, MO 63110, USA
School of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA
School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia
SRM Institutes for Medical Science, 1 Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Vadapalani, Chennai 600 026, India
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 7 November 2014 / Accepted: 31 December 2014 / Published: 14 January 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dietary Zinc and Human Health)
Full-Text   |   PDF [116 KB, uploaded 15 January 2015]


Globally, zinc deficiency is widespread, despite decades of research highlighting its negative effects on health, and in particular upon child health in low-income countries. Apart from inadequate dietary intake of bioavailable zinc, other significant contributors to zinc deficiency include the excessive intestinal loss of endogenously secreted zinc and impairment in small intestinal absorptive function. Such changes are likely to occur in children suffering from environmental (or tropical) enteropathy (EE)—an almost universal condition among inhabitants of developing countries characterized by morphologic and functional changes in the small intestine. Changes to the proximal gut in environmental enteropathy will likely influence the nature and amount of zinc delivered into the large intestine. Consequently, we reviewed the current literature to determine if colonic absorption of endogenous or exogenous (dietary) zinc could contribute to overall zinc nutriture. Whilst we found evidence that significant zinc absorption occurs in the rodent colon, and is favoured when microbially-fermentable carbohydrates (specifically resistant starch) are consumed, it is unclear whether this process occur in humans and/or to what degree. Constraints in study design in the few available studies may well have masked a possible colonic contribution to zinc nutrition. Furthermore these few available human studies have failed to include the actual target population that would benefit, namely infants affected by EE where zinc delivery to the colon may be increased and who are also at risk of zinc deficiency. In conducting this review we have not been able to confirm a colonic contribution to zinc absorption in humans. However, given the observations in rodents and that feeding resistant starch to children is feasible, definitive studies utilising the dual stable isotope method in children with EE should be undertaken. View Full-Text
Keywords: colon; zinc; mineral absorption; fermentation colon; zinc; mineral absorption; fermentation
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Gopalsamy, G.L.; Alpers, D.H.; Binder, H.J.; Tran, C.D.; Ramakrishna, B.S.; Brown, I.; Manary, M.; Mortimer, E.; Young, G.P. The Relevance of the Colon to Zinc Nutrition. Nutrients 2015, 7, 572-583.

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