Background The effect of maternal zinc (Zn) deficiency on milk Zn concentrations, especially in late lactation, is uncertain, with conflicting data from different populations.
Objective The purpose of this research was to examine breast milk Zn concentrations in 20 rural southern Ethiopian lactating women of the Siddama linguistic population, who have been found to be Zn deficient during pregnancy.
Methods The 20 subjects were studied while on their habitual diets, which are based on maize and fermented enset with minimal flesh foods. Breast milk samples were hand expressed into Zn-free collection vials, ensuring freedom from environmental Zn contamination. Milk intake was determined from a 24-hr test-weighing. Milk Zn concentrations were analyzed by flame atomic absorption spectrophotometry.
Results On average the women were 7.5 ± 0.5 months postpartum. Mean breast milk Zn concentration during the test weighing period was 1.05 ± 0.47 μg Zn/g. Mean infant milk intake was 524 ± 147 g/d. Based on these findings, the estimated mean infant Zn intake from human milk was 0.57 ± 0.29 mg/d.
Conclusion Based on the habitual diet, the maternal dietary Zn intake for this population is likely to be much lower than stage-of-lactation matched data from the United States. Despite this, the mean breast milk Zn concentrations of the two groups are similar, as are the infant Zn intakes. Thus, even in this Zn-deficient population, breast milk Zn concentrations are apparently relatively independent of maternal dietary Zn intake.
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