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BACKGROUND: Agronomic zinc biofortification of wheat by foliar application increases wheat zinc content and total zinc absorption in humans. OBJECTIVES: To assess the effect of agronomically biofortified whole wheat flour (BFW) on plasma zinc (PZC) compared with a postharvest fortified wheat (PHFW) and unfortified control wheat (CW) when integrated in a midday school meal scheme. METHODS: We conducted a 20-wk double-blind intervention trial in children (4-12 y, n = 273) individually randomly assigned to 3 groups to receive a daily school lunch consisting of 3 chapattis prepared with the 3 different wheat flour types. Measurements of anthropometry, blood biochemistry, and leukocyte DNA strand breaks were conducted. We applied sparse serial sampling to monitor PZC over time, and analysis was performed using linear mixed-effects models. RESULTS: Mean zinc content in BFW, PHFW, and CW were 48.0, 45.1, and 21.2 ppm, respectively (P < 0.001). Mean (standard deviation) daily zinc intakes in the study intervention in BFW, PHFW, and CW groups were 4.4 (1.6), 5.9 (1.9) and 2.6 (0.6) mg Zn/d, respectively, with intake in groups PHFW and BFW differing from CW (P < 0.001) but no difference between BFW and PHFW. There were no time effect, group difference, or group × time interaction in PZC. Prevalence of zinc deficiency decreased in the BFW (from 14.1%-11.2%), PHFW (from 8.9%-2.3%), and CW (9.8%-8.8%) groups, but there was no time × treatment interaction in the prevalence of zinc deficiency (P = 0.191). Compliance with consuming the study school meals was associated with PZC (P = 0.006). DNA strand breaks were not significantly associated with PZC (n = 51; r = 0.004, P = 0.945). CONCLUSIONS: Consumption of either PHFW or BFW provided an additional ∼1.8 to 3.3 mg Zn/d, but it did not affect PZC or zinc deficiency, growth, or DNA strand breaks. This trial was registered on as NCT02241330 and as CTRI/2015/06/005913.

Original publication




Journal article


J Nutr

Publication Date





3092 - 3100


DNA strand breaks, India, biofortification, plasma zinc, school-age children, wheat, zinc, zinc deficiency