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J Nutr Biochem. 2008 Jan;19(1):33-9. Epub 2007 May 16.

Effects of dietary factors on iron uptake from ferritin by Caco-2 cells.

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Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Biofortification of staple foods with iron (Fe) in the form of ferritin (Ft) is now possible, both by conventional plant breeding methods and transgenic approaches. Ft-Fe from plants and animals is absorbed well (25-30%) by human subjects, but little is known about dietary factors affecting its absorption. We used human intestinal Caco-2 cells and compared Fe absorption from animal Ft and FeSO4 to determine the effects of inhibitors and enhancers, such as phytic acid, ascorbic acid, tannic acid, calcium and heme. When postconfluent cells were coincubated with 59Fe-labeled (1 microM) FeSO4 and dietary factors, at different molar ratios of dietary factor to Fe (phytic acid:Fe, 10:1; ascorbic acid:Fe, 50:1; tannic acid:Fe, 50:1; calcium:Fe, 10:1 and hemin:Fe, 10:1), all inhibited uptake from FeSO4, except ascorbate, confirming earlier studies. In contrast, these dietary factors had little or no effect on Fe uptake from undigested Ft or Ft digested in vitro at pH 4, except tannins. However, results after in vitro digestion of Ft at pH 2 were similar to those obtained for FeSO4. These results suggest that Fe uptake occurs from both undigested as well as digested Ft but, possibly, via different mechanisms. The Fe-Ft stability shown here could minimize Fe-induced oxidation of Fe-supplemented food products.

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