The addition of milk or yogurt to a plant-based diet increases zinc bioavailability but does not affect iron bioavailability in women.
The addition of milk and milk-based products to the diets of individuals subsisting on plant-based diets was reported to have positive effects on nutritional status and functional outcomes such as growth, morbidity, and cognition. We examined the effect of the addition of milk or yogurt on the bioavailability of zinc and iron from a plant-based rural diet. The subjects were 48 Mexican women (30.9 +/- 5.7 y) who habitually consumed a plant-based diet. The women were assigned to 1 of 3 groups: 1) the typical rural Mexican diet, 2) that diet with milk added, or 3) that diet with yogurt for 13 d. Zinc absorption was measured after extrinsically labeling meals with (67)Zn and an i.v. dose of (70)Zn; iron absorption was measured by extrinsically labeling meals with (58)Fe and a reference oral dose of (57)Fe. Including milk and yogurt in the diet increased zinc absorption by 50 and 68%, respectively (P < 0.05). The 3 groups did not differ in the percentage iron absorption. The total amount of zinc absorbed was increased (P < 0.05) by 70% when milk was added to the meal and 78% when yogurt was added. The total amount of iron absorbed did not differ among the groups. The addition of milk and yogurt to a plant-based diet high in phytate increases zinc bioavailability without affecting iron bioavailability.