Effect of beef and soy proteins on the absorption of non-heme iron and inorganic zinc in children

Paz Etcheverry, Keli M. Hawthorne, Lily K. Liang, Steven A. Abrams, Ian J. Griffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Background: Iron and zinc deficiency remain substantial problems in small children in both developed and developing nations. Optimizing mineral absorption is an important strategy in minimizing this problem. Objectives: To assess the effects of beef and soy proteins on the bioavailability of non-heme iron and zinc in children. Methods: We measured iron (n = 26) and zinc (n = 36) absorption in 4-8 y old children from meals differing only in protein source (beef or a low-phytate soy protein concentrate). Iron and zinc absorption were measured using multi-tracer stable isotope techniques. Iron absorption was calculated from the red blood cell iron incorporation measured after 14 days and zinc absorption from the ratio of the oral and intravenous excretion of the zinc tracers 48 hours after dosing. Results: Iron absorption from the beef meal was significantly greater (geometric mean, 7.6%) than from the soy meal (3.5%, p = 0.0015). Zinc absorption from the beef meal was greater (mean ± SD, 13.7 ± 6.0%) than from the soy meal (10.1 ± 4.1%, p = 0.047). Conclusion: These findings indicate that beef protein increases both non-heme iron and zinc absorption compared to soy protein. The effect of protein source on non-heme iron and inorganic zinc absorption should be one of the factors taken into account when designing diets for children. The inhibitory effect of the soy based meal on iron and zinc absorption could be overcome by fortifying the soy protein with these minerals during the production process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-40
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American College of Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Beef protein
  • Iron absorption
  • Soy protein
  • Stable isotopes
  • Zinc absorption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science


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