Estimating the Global Prevalence of Inadequate Zinc Intake from National Food Balance Sheets: Effects of Methodological Assumptions

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Abstract

Background: The prevalence of inadequate zinc intake in a population can be estimated by comparing the zinc content of the food supply with the population's theoretical requirement for zinc. However, assumptions regarding the nutrient composition of foods, zinc requirements, and zinc absorption may affect prevalence estimates. These analyses were conducted to: (1) evaluate the effect of varying methodological assumptions on country-specific estimates of the prevalence of dietary zinc inadequacy and (2) generate a model considered to provide the best estimates. Methodology and Principal Findings: National food balance data were obtained from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Zinc and phytate contents of these foods were estimated from three nutrient composition databases. Zinc absorption was predicted using a mathematical model (Miller equation). Theoretical mean daily per capita physiological and dietary requirements for zinc were calculated using recommendations from the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine and the International Zinc Nutrition Consultative Group. The estimated global prevalence of inadequate zinc intake varied between 12-66%, depending on which methodological assumptions were applied. However, country-specific rank order of the estimated prevalence of inadequate intake was conserved across all models (r = 0.57-0.99, P<0.01). A "best-estimate" model, comprised of zinc and phytate data from a composite nutrient database and IZiNCG physiological requirements for absorbed zinc, estimated the global prevalence of inadequate zinc intake to be 17.3%. Conclusions and Significance: Given the multiple sources of uncertainty in this method, caution must be taken in the interpretation of the estimated prevalence figures. However, the results of all models indicate that inadequate zinc intake may be fairly common globally. Inferences regarding the relative likelihood of zinc deficiency as a public health problem in different countries can be drawn based on the country-specific rank order of estimated prevalence of inadequate zinc intake. © 2012 Wessells et al.

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Wessells, K. R., Singh, G. M., & Brown, K. H. (2012). Estimating the Global Prevalence of Inadequate Zinc Intake from National Food Balance Sheets: Effects of Methodological Assumptions. PLoS ONE, 7(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0050565

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