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How can iron deficiency be prevented?
Enriching foods with iron appears to be an inexpensive way to prevent iron deficiency. A newly identified iron compound can be easily absorbed by the intestine without compromising food quality.
A research collaboration between Chalmers University of Technology, ETH Zurich and Nestlé has shown that iron deficiency can be prevented by fortifying food with a certain iron compound. The results were published in the scientific reports in English.
Which people are particularly affected by iron deficiency?
Iron deficiency affects two billion people around the world. Women of childbearing age, young children and adolescents are particularly affected. The researchers report that severe iron deficiency can lead to premature birth, increased risk of illness and death for mother and child, and impaired development of brain function in children.
Increased risk to people in low-income countries
The situation is most serious in low-income countries, where food is mainly plant-based. Cereals and legumes are rich in iron, but the iron is not available for absorption by the body. This is mainly because these foods also contain phytate, which forms insoluble compounds with iron in the intestine, which inhibits iron absorption, the team explains.
Iron enrichment is effective and inexpensive
An inexpensive way to prevent iron deficiency, especially in low-income countries, is to fortify iron in foods like broth or broth. Unfortunately, iron compounds that are easily absorbed by the intestine tend to be chemically reactive and therefore affect the color and taste of the food. It is also possible that the treated food will spoil.
Disadvantages of stable iron compounds
Conversely, stable iron compounds, such as iron (III) pyrophosphate, which is used, for example, for iron enrichment of broth, are difficult for the intestine to absorb.
Connection combines effectiveness and tolerance
The big challenge is to find a connection that is tolerable and effective. Finally, a new compound with monoferratic phytate (Fe-PA) could be produced. To make it easier for the gut to absorb the compound, it is bound to amino acids. Previous studies have shown that this process helps make iron compounds more absorbable.
Various important factors have been examined
The stability and effectiveness of the preparation have been tested for taste, color and smell. The researchers then examined the iron uptake in human intestinal cells upon contact with broth, which was enriched with various variants of the Fe-PA compound. The result was very positive. When the rate of iron uptake of the new compound was compared to that of iron sulfate, it was found that the intestinal cells, which were exposed to all the different types of enriched broth, showed good iron uptake.
Iron absorption was extremely increased
In a parallel published human study by the Nestlé research center in Lausanne and the ETH Zurich, it was found that the iron absorption from a broth enriched with hydrolyzed maize protein compounds was twice as high as that of iron pyrophosphate. When the compound was tested in foods containing iron absorption inhibitors, such as maize porridge, the absorption was even five times higher than that of iron (III) pyrophosphate.
There is hope that the new iron compound in broth and stock cubes could be used in low-income countries to reduce the occurrence of iron deficiency, the research team reports. In this way, the disease and mortality rate can be reduced in these countries, especially among women and children. Before that, however, further research remains necessary, also to ensure that there are no undesirable side effects. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Swarnim Gupta, Edwin Habeych, Nathalie Scheers, Sylvie Merinat, Brigitte Rey et al .: The development of a novel ferric phytate compound for iron fortification of bouillons (part I), in Scientific Reports (published March 24, 2020), Scientific Reports