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J Nutr. 2016 Aug;146(8):1586-92. doi: 10.3945/jn.115.224741. Epub 2016 Jun 29.

Consuming Iron Biofortified Beans Increases Iron Status in Rwandan Women after 128 Days in a Randomized Controlled Feeding Trial.

Author information

Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY;
Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY;
HarvestPlus, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)/Rwanda, Kigali, Rwanda;
Department of Psychology and Cellular and Behavioral Neurobiology, The University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK;
Department of Nutritional Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA;
Bean Program, CIAT, Cali, Colombia;
Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Rwanda, Huye, Rwanda; and.
Institute of Food, Nutrition, and Health, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich, Switzerland.



Food-based strategies to reduce nutritional iron deficiency have not been universally successful. Biofortification has the potential to become a sustainable, inexpensive, and effective solution.


This randomized controlled trial was conducted to determine the efficacy of iron-biofortified beans (Fe-Beans) to improve iron status in Rwandan women.


A total of 195 women (aged 18-27 y) with serum ferritin <20 μg/L were randomly assigned to receive either Fe-Beans, with 86 mg Fe/kg, or standard unfortified beans (Control-Beans), with 50 mg Fe/kg, 2 times/d for 128 d in Huye, Rwanda. Iron status was assessed by hemoglobin, serum ferritin, soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR), and body iron (BI); inflammation was assessed by serum C-reactive protein (CRP) and serum α1-acid glycoprotein (AGP). Anthropometric measurements were performed at baseline and at end line. Random weekly serial sampling was used to collect blood during the middle 8 wk of the feeding trial. Mixed-effects regression analysis with repeated measurements was used to evaluate the effect of Fe-Beans compared with Control-Beans on iron biomarkers throughout the course of the study.


At baseline, 86% of subjects were iron-deficient (serum ferritin <15 μg/L) and 37% were anemic (hemoglobin <120 g/L). Both groups consumed an average of 336 g wet beans/d. The Fe-Beans group consumed 14.5 ± 1.6 mg Fe/d from biofortified beans, whereas the Control-Beans group consumed 8.6 ± 0.8 mg Fe/d from standard beans (P < 0.05). Repeated-measures analyses showed significant time-by-treatment interactions for hemoglobin, log serum ferritin, and BI (P < 0.05). The Fe-Beans group had significantly greater increases in hemoglobin (3.8 g/L), log serum ferritin (0.1 log μg/L), and BI (0.5 mg/kg) than did controls after 128 d. For every 1 g Fe consumed from beans over the 128 study days, there was a significant 4.2-g/L increase in hemoglobin (P < 0.05).


The consumption of iron-biofortified beans significantly improved iron status in Rwandan women. This trial was registered at as NCT01594359.


Rwanda; beans; biofortification; ferritin; hemoglobin; iron; women

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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