Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: September 1, 2005
Publication Date: March 22, 2006
Citation: Hunt JR. Bioavailability of iron, zinc and copper as influenced by host and dietary factors. In: Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences report on “Food and Nutrition Board: Institute of Medicine. Mineral Requirements for Military Personnel; Levels Needed for Cognitive and Physical Performance During Garrison Training. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2006, pp. 265-277. Technical Abstract: To determine the mineral intake that will support or enhance performance of military personnel, the bioavailability of the minerals must be considered, in addition to the quantity of the mineral required for biological function. Bioavailability describes the biological utilization of a mineral as consumed, and is affected both by dietary and host factors. This paper briefly summarizes information on the bioavailability of iron, zinc and copper, emphasizing topics of particular application to setting nutritional guidelines for feeding the military. The bioavailability of these nutrients is generally high in North American diets, but bioavailability can be reduced by food choices such as the selection of a vegetarian diet. Biochemical indices are available to assess iron, but not zinc or copper nutritional status. Approximately ~20% of menstruating women have low iron stores, and iron deficiency is more prevalent in minorities and those of low income. To address iron deficiency in these women, food-based approaches, including food fortification, are likely to require months or years to influence iron status, and would unnecessarily increase bioavailable iron for men. Iron supplementation should be evaluated for these specific women, or perhaps for all military women.