Zinc Supplementation Does Not Alter Sensitive Biomarkers of Copper Status in Healthy Boys1-4

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The Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) for zinc for children were based on limited data and there is concern that the UL may be set too low. The first effect of excessive zinc intake is a reduction in copper status. The primary objective of this study was to examine the effect of zinc supplementation on copper status in children. Healthy, 6- to 8-y-old boys from Ontario, Canada were assigned to take a placebo (n = 10) or 5 mg (n = 10), 10 mg (n = 9), or 15 mg (n = 8) of zinc supplement daily for 4 mo in a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. Biochemical measures were evaluated at baseline and after 2 and 4 mo of supplementation. Food records were completed near the baseline and 4-mo visits. Age and anthropometric measurements did not differ (P > 0.05) between treatment groups at baseline. Mean zinc intakes from food alone (10.9-14.8 mg zinc/d) approached or exceeded the UL of 12 mg/d. Compared with the placebo group, the zinc groups had a greater change in the urine zinc:creatinine ratio at 4 mo (P = 0.02). Traditional (plasma copper and ceruloplasmin activity) and more sensitive biomarkers of copper status, including erythrocyte SOD1 activity and the erythrocyte CCS:SOD1 protein ratio, were unchanged in zinc-supplemented boys, demonstrating that copper status was not depressed. Serum lipid measures and hemoglobin concentrations were also unaffected and gastrointestinal symptoms were not reported. These data provide evidence in support of the need for reexamining the current UL for zinc for children.

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