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Annu Rev Nutr. 2004;24:327-43.

Iron, ferritin, and nutrition.

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CHORI (Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute), Oakland, California 94609, USA.


Ferritin, a major form of endogenous iron in food legumes such as soybeans, is a novel and natural alternative for iron supplementation strategies where effectiveness is limited by acceptability, cost, or undesirable side effects. A member of the nonheme iron group of dietary iron sources, ferritin is a complex with Fe3+ iron in a mineral (thousands of iron atoms inside a protein cage) protected from complexation. Ferritin illustrates the wide range of chemical and biological properties among nonheme iron sources. The wide range of nonheme iron receptors matched to the structure of the iron complexes that occurs in microorganisms may, by analogy, exist in humans. An understanding of the chemistry and biology of each type of dietary iron source (ferritin, heme, Fe2+ ion, etc.), and of the interactions dependent on food sources, genes, and gender, is required to design diets that will eradicate global iron deficiency in the twenty-first century.

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