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Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2004 Nov;74(6):421-34.

The potential role of NaFeEDTA as an iron fortificant.

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Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, 7 York Road, Parktown, Johannesburg 2193, South Africa.


Ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) is a hexadentate chelator, which can combine with virtually every metal in the periodic table. CaNa2EDTA and Na2EDTA (ADI 2.5 mg EDTA/kg body weight/day) are widely used as sequestering agents in canned products, while NaFeEDTA is a promising iron fortificant. Binding of EDTA with iron is favored in the acid milieu of the stomach, irrespective of whether the EDTA is administered as CaNa2EDTA, Na2EDTA, or NaFeEDTA, but in the more alkaline medium of the duodenum the iron is exchanged, in part, with other metals. The iron released from EDTA is absorbed by the normal physiological mechanisms. When NaFeEDTA is present in a meal, the iron moiety exchanges with the intrinsic food iron and the EDTA partially protects the iron in this common non-heme iron pool from the effects of inhibitors of iron absorption, such as phytates and polyphenols. When iron is added as NaFeEDTA to an inhibitory meal, it is two to three times better absorbed than is iron added as ferrous sulfate. It also has a similar effect on the intrinsic food iron in the meal. Fortification with NaFeEDTA is most efficacious when administered with cereal- and legume-based diets but offers no advantages over other fortificants when added to meals of high bioavailability. Its potential as a fortificant has been confirmed in five extended fortification trials carried out in developing countries. There is no evidence that NaFeEDTA in the dose range proposed for food fortificants (5 to 10 mg iron daily) will have any direct toxic effects. Na2EDTA and CaNa2EDTA have proved safe over a number of years, while the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives concluded in 1999 that NaFeEDTA "could be considered safe when used in supervised fortification programs". Animal and human studies, including the results of two fortification trials, suggest that NaFeEDTA has little or no effect on overall zinc metabolism. Indeed, if anything, it increases zinc and possibly copper absorption. Data on potentially toxic metals, such as lead mercury, aluminum, and manganese, are limited but the evidence that is available is uniformly negative thus far. Further studies in this field are desirable. The long-term potential of NaFeEDTA fortification to cause iron overload is conjectural but the available evidence suggests that homeostatic controls would prevent excess iron accumulation in the normal population. NaFeEDTA, which is pale yellow in color, causes fewer organoleptic changes in a number of stored vehicles, including cereals, than do other soluble iron salts. Other potential vehicles include condiments, several of which have been successfully used in fortification trials. What is currently lacking is a consolidated body of published evidence on the stability of NaFeEDTA during processing, storage, and household cooking in widely consumed food vehicles, coupled with standardized testing of consumer acceptance of each fortified vehicle. While NaFeEDTA seems to be an appropriate fortificant for developing countries, its cost is about six to eight times that of ferrous sulfate in terms of equivalent amounts of iron. Its better absorption (a factor of 2-3) might make it possible to halve the daily fortification level but, it still remains expensive and there is a pressing need for food grade NaFeEDTA at more affordable prices. Another possible option is the use of other salts of EDTA (Na2EDTA or Ca Na2EDTA) together with a soluble source of iron, such as ferrous sulfate. The combination has been shown to be as effective as NaFeEDTA when the EDTA:Fe molar ratio is between 1:2 and 1:1. This approach is, however, only feasible with vehicles that are stored for short periods because of ferrous sulfate's propensity to cause organoleptic changes. The search for an iron source that is more stable but at the same time available to combine with EDTA has been unsuccessful thus far. Target populations for fortification with NaFeEDTA include all those that subsist on cereal- and legume-based diets, with the most appropriate vehicles being cereal products and condiments. The fortification of infant milk and cereal formulas with NaFeEDTA does not seem appropriate, since the amounts of NaFeEDTA required for effective fortification would be close to the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 2.5 mg EDTA/kg body weight/day.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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