Public Health Nutrition

Research Article

Use of national food balance data to estimate the adequacy of zinc in national food supplies: methodology and regional estimates

Sara E Wuehlera1 c1, Janet M Peersona1 and Kenneth H Browna1

a1 Department of Nutrition and Program in International Nutrition, University of California–Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA


Objectives Adequate zinc nutriture is critically important for human health, but the development of programmes to control zinc deficiency is limited by the lack of reliable information on population zinc status. The present analyses were conducted to: (1) estimate the absorbable zinc content of national food supplies; (2) compare this information with theoretical population requirements for zinc; and (3) use these results to predict national risks of inadequate zinc intake.

Setting and design: National food balance data were obtained for 176 countries from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The amount of absorbable zinc in these foods was estimated from food composition data, and zinc absorption was predicted using a model developed by the International Zinc Nutrition Consultative Group (IZiNCG). Demographic data were obtained from United Nations estimates, and age- and sex-specific physiological requirements for absorbable zinc were estimated using IZiNCG recommendations.

Results and conclusions: The mean per capita absorbable zinc content of national food supplies ranged from 2.98–3.01 mg day−1 in Western Europe and USA & Canada to 2.09 mg day−1 in Southeast Asia. The estimated percentage of individuals at risk of inadequate zinc intake ranged from 9.3–9.5% in the regions of North Africa & Eastern Mediterranean and USA & Canada to 33.1% in Southeast Asia. Overall, approximately 20.5% of the world's population is estimated to be at risk of inadequate zinc intake. Data on the absorbable zinc content of national food supplies can be used to determine whether further assessments of population zinc status and development of intervention programmes are warranted.

(Received September 08 2004)

(Accepted January 18 2005)


c1 Corresponding author: Email