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J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Apr 4;55(7):2749-54. Epub 2007 Mar 14.

Fermentation and lactic acid addition enhance iron bioavailability of maize.

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Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, 1127 HNSB, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50010, USA.


Maize is one of the most important cereal crops for human consumption, yet it is of concern due to its low iron bioavailability. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of processing on iron bioavailability in common maize products and elucidate better processing techniques for enhancing iron bioavailability. Maize products were processed to represent different processing techniques: heating (porridge), fermentation (ogi), nixtamalization (tortillas), and decortication (arepas). Iron and phytate contents were evaluated. Iron bioavailability was assessed using the Caco-2 cell model. Phytate content of maize products was significantly reduced by decortication (25.6%, p = 0.003) and nixtamalization (15%, p = 0.03), and iron content was reduced by decortication (29.1%, p = 0.002). The relative bioavailability (RBA, compared to 100% bioavailability of porridge with FeSO4) of ogi was significantly higher than that of other products when fortified with FeSO4 (p < 0.001) or reduced iron (p < 0.001). Addition of lactic acid (6 mg/g of maize) significantly increased iron solubility and increased bioavailability by about 2-fold (p < 0.01), especially in tortillas. The consumer panel results showed that lactic acid addition does not significantly affect the organoleptic characteristics of tortillas and arepas (p = 0.166 and 0.831, respectively). The results suggest that fermentation, or the addition of small amounts of lactic acid to unfermented maize products, may significantly improve iron bioavailability. Lactic acid addition may be more feasible than the addition of highly bioavailable but expensive fortificants. This approach may be a novel means to increase the iron bioavailability of maize products to reduce the incidence of iron deficiency anemia.

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