Objective Zn deficiency may be widespread in Asian countries such as South Korea. However, dietary habits have changed in response to rapid economic growth and globalization. Zn nutrition in South Koreans has therefore been assessed during a period (1969–1998) of unprecedented economic growth.
Design and methods Cross-sectional food consumption data from the Korean National Nutrition Survey Reports (KNNSR) of South Korea at four separate time points (1969, 1978, 1988 and 1998) were used to calculate Zn, Ca and phytate intakes using various food composition tables, databases and literature values. Nutrient values in local foods were cited from their analysed values.
Results Average Zn intake was 5·8, 4·8 and 5·3 mg/d for 1969, 1978 and 1988 respectively, increasing to 7·3 mg/d in 1998 (73 % of the Korean Dietary Reference Intake). The phytate:Zn molar ratio decreased from 21 to 8 during the study period. Dietary Zn depletion due to marked decreases in cereal consumption, particularly barley which has a low Zn bioavailability, was counterbalanced by marked increases in the consumption of meat and fish, which are also Zn-rich foods. Reduced phytate consumption coincident with increased Zn intake suggests that Zn bioavailability also improved, particularly by 1998.
Conclusions Although total Zn intake was not greatly affected over the initial period of economic growth in South Korea (1969–1988), Zn contributions from different food sources changed markedly and both Zn intake and potential bioavailability were improved by 1998. The study may have implications for Zn nutrition in other Asian countries currently experiencing rapid economic growth.