Breast milk provides adequate zinc for term infants until birth weight has approximately doubled. Requirements for zinc are particularly high in infancy because of the demands of growth, and zinc-containing complementary foods or a fortified infant formula is needed to meet requirements after the age of approximately 6 months. Zinc deficiency in childhood is common in developing countries, leading to slow weight gain in infancy and impaired linear growth in children. In unfavorable environments, zinc supplementation of infants and young children is associated with improvements in growth and a reduction of up to 25% in the incidence of diarrhea and 40% reduction in the incidence of pneumonia. Recommendations for zinc intakes vary considerably throughout the world. Zinc absorption is dependent on the composition of the diet and, as with iron, FAO/WHO reference intakes give three values for each age group for low, medium, and high bioavailability.

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