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Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Apr;65(4):964-9.

The influence of different cereal grains on iron absorption from infant cereal foods.

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Department of Medicine, Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas City 66160-7402, USA.


Iron absorption from various cereal grains was evaluated in the present study to identify possible preferences for the preparation of infant weaning foods. In six separate studies, four radioiron absorption tests were performed in each of 57 volunteer subjects by using a sequential double-isotopic method. Serum ferritin concentration was used to adjust for the effect of differences in the iron status of subjects participating in separate studies. Identical commercial processing and test meal composition were used to evaluate iron absorption from 50 g cooked cereal prepared from rice, wheat, maize, oats, millet, and sweet or bitter quinoa. In an initial evaluation of cereals fortified with 2.5 mg Fe as FeSO4, geometric mean absorption values were uniformly < 1% for all cereals and were not significantly different. In subsequent studies, percentage iron absorption was enhanced by either eliminating the fortifying iron or adding 50 mg ascorbic acid to the test meal. The effect was similar for most of the cereals tested with a composite mean increase in absorption of 37% when fortifying iron was removed and 270% when ascorbic acid was added. There was a strong inverse correlation between iron absorption and the phytate content of different cereals. Except for a modestly lower absorption of iron from quinoa and a remarkably higher absorption from one lot of maize, we conclude that the type of cereal grain has little influence on iron bioavailability of infant cereals. On the other hand, modification in the milling and processing methods for cereal grains that reduce their content of phytic acid is likely to improve iron availability significantly.

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