Bioavailability of zinc and its binding to casein in milks and formulas

M. L. Pabón, B. Lönnerdal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Differences in zinc bioavailability among milk and formulas may be attributed to binding of zinc to various ligands. We determined the distribution of zinc and protein at different pHs and zinc and calcium concentrations. We used radiolabelled cow's milk, human milk, whey-predominant (WPF) and casein-predominant (CPF) infant formula. Lowering the pH changed zinc and protein distribution: zinc shifted from pellet (casein) to whey in cow's milk, from fat to whey in human milk and from fat and pellet to whey in formulas. Protein shifted from whey to pellet in human milk and from whey and pellet to fat in formulas. Increasing zinc and calcium concentrations shifted protein and zinc from pellet to whey for cow's milk and from whey and pellet to fat for the formulas. Protein distribution was not affected by calcium or zinc addition in human milk or CPF, while zinc shifted from whey to fat in human milk and from fat and pellet to whey in CPF. Zinc and calcium binding to isolated bovine or human casein increased with pH. At 500 mg/L of zinc, bovine casein bound 32.0 ± 1.8 and human casein 10.0 ± 0.9 mg zinc/g protein. At 500 mg/L of calcium, calcium was preferentially bound over zinc. Adding calcium and zinc resulted in 32.0 ± 1.8 mg zinc/g bound to bovine casein and 17.0 ± 0.8 mg zinc/g to human casein, while calcium binding was low. Suckling rat pups dosed with 65Zn labelled infant diets were killed and individual tissues were gamma counted. Lower zinc bioavailability was found for bovine milk at pH=4.0 (%65Zn in liver=18.7±1.4) when compared to WPF (22.8±1.6) or human milk (26.9±0.8). Lowering the pH further decreased zinc bioavailability from human milk, but not from cow's milk or WPF. Knowledge of the compounds binding minerals and trace elements in infant formulas is essential for optimizing zinc bioavailability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-153
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000


  • Casein
  • Cow's milk
  • Human milk
  • Infant formula
  • Zinc binding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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