Soybean ferritin could help low-iron populations

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Iron Hemoglobin Iron deficiency anemia

Purified ferritin from soybeans is easily adsorbed in the body and
could provide a new way of raising iron levels in low-iron
populations, reports a new study.

Dietary ferritin, an iron mineral surrounded by a protein cage, is proposed to be an underestimated source of bioavailable iron.

The new research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​ (Vol. 83, pp. 103-107), looked at iron adsorption among 16 women eating a standardised meal, containing either the ferrous salt (FeSO4) or a purified soybean ferritin.

The randomised, crossover study measured iron levels after 28 days of eating the standardised meal. No significance difference was recorded in either whole-body or red blood cell levels of iron adsorption for FeSO4 or the soybean ferritin.

Lead author, Professor Bo Lönnerdal from the University of California, concluded: "Iron from soybean ferritin is well adsorbed and may provide a model for novel, utilisable, plant-based forms of iron for populations with low iron status."

The study has important public health implications, according to Professor Sue Fairweather-Tait, from the UK's Institute of Food Research.

Talking to, she said: "Research by Lönnerdal's group uses state-of-the-art techniques to measure iron absorption from animal and plant ferritin, and they have generated data that shows ferritin contains iron of high bioavailability."

"Increasing plant ferritin is one of the objectives of the HarvestPlus programme funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in their drive to eradicate iron deficiency anaemia worldwide."

"The results of the study on iron absorption from soybean ferritin provides important evidence suggesting that increasing plant ferritin should be an effective strategy to reduce iron deficiency in developing countries,"​ she said.

Iron deficiency is estimated to affect half of all children in the developing world, and undermines the health of 500 million women of reproductive age, according to UNICEF.

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