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Hydrothermal treatment and malting of barley improved zinc absorption but not calcium absorption in humans


Objective: To study whether hydrothermal treatment or malting of barley (cv. Blenheim) improves zinc and calcium absorption in humans.

Design: Two groups of 10 and 12 healthy subjects, respectively, were in a period of 2 months in a fasting state, served two single meals each containing porridge or breakfast cereals prepared from processed or unprocessed (control) barley (60 g). The meals included 200 g of milk, extrinsically labelled with 65Zn and 47Ca. Whole-body retention of both minerals was measured.

Setting: The study was carried out at the Department of Radiation Physics, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg.

Subjects: The subjects were recruited among students at the Göteborg University. None dropped out.

Interventions: The activities of 65Zn and 47Ca were measured by whole-body counting four to five times over a 4-week period after each meal.

Results: Zinc absorption from hydrothermally treated barley porridge, containing 28 mg P as inositol tri- to hexaphosphates (InsP3–InsP6), was significantly higher (P<0.001) than from control porridge containing 111 mg P as InsP3–InsP6, 25.2±6.9 vs 11.0±2.5% (n=12). Calcium absorption did not differ (P>0.05), 21.1±6.8 vs 19.5±4.7% (n=12). Zinc absorption from breakfast cereals of malted barley with phytase activity and containing 70 mg P as InsP3–InsP6, was significantly higher (P<0.05) than from flakes of barley, containing 108 mg P as InsP3– InsP6 and no phytase activity, 22.9±5.8 vs 14.8±4.6% (n=10). The calcium absorption was 21.3±6.5 vs 18.5±4.3% (n=10) and did not differ significantly (P>0.05).

Conclusions: Improvements of zinc absorption in breakfast meals can be achieved by optimised hydrothermal treatment or malting of barley. Calcium absorption was not influenced in the meals in this study.

Sponsorship: Supported by Semper AB, Sweden, Oy Lahden Polttimo, Finland, the SL-Foundation, Sweden, Swedish National Board for Industrial and Technical Development (NUTEK), the Nordic Industrial Foundation, Swedish Council for Forestry and Agricultural Research (SJFR, project no 50.0306/97).

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Correspondence to K Fredlund.

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Fredlund, K., Bergman, EL., Rossander-Hulthén, L. et al. Hydrothermal treatment and malting of barley improved zinc absorption but not calcium absorption in humans. Eur J Clin Nutr 57, 1507–1513 (2003).

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  • phytate
  • InsP6
  • barley
  • hydrothermal treatment
  • zinc absorption
  • calcium absorption
  • whole-body counting


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