Zinc and copper requirements in preterm infants: An examination of the current literature

Ian J. Griffin, Magnus Domellöf, Jatinder Bhatia, Diane M. Anderson, Neelam Kler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Background: Zinc and copper are essential for preterm infants, but recommended requirements from different groups vary widely. Recommended zinc intakes have steadily increased over the years. Although this would be expected to impair copper absorption, recommended copper intakes have not risen in parallel. Objectives: To systematically review the literature on zinc and copper retention in preterm infants; to examine the effect on zinc intake on copper retention; and to estimate the zinc and copper intakes required to meet the levels of zinc and copper retention required for normal growth. Design: Studies reporting zinc and/or copper retention in preterm infants (<. 36. weeks of gestation) during the first 120. days of life were identified using PubMed. Only studies reporting net retention were included. Results: Fourteen studies on zinc retention reporting data on 45 different groups were identified. Eleven studies (32 groups) were identified reporting copper retention. Zinc retention was significantly higher at higher zinc intakes, and higher in formula-based diets than in human milk based diets. Zinc intakes of between 1.8-2.4. mg/kg/d (from formula based diets) and 2.3-2.4. mg/kg/d (from human-milk based diets) were required to achieve adequate zinc retention. Copper retention was significantly positively correlated with copper intake and significantly negatively correlated with zinc intake. At the zinc intakes suggested previously (1.8-2.4, 2.3-2.4. mg/kg/d), copper intakes of between 200 and 250. mcg/kg/d are required to ensure adequate copper retention. Conclusions: Our results support the higher zinc intakes recommended in recent guidelines. However, they suggest that recommended copper intakes have not kept pace with increasing zinc intakes, and that preterm infants may need higher copper intakes than currently recommended.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S29-S34
JournalEarly Human Development
Issue numberSUPPL2
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Copper
  • Metabolic balance
  • Nutritional requirements
  • Preterm infant
  • Zinc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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