A total of 22 healthy women of reproductive age were given either fruit juice containing 5 mg of iron alone or an iron-fortified fruit juice with 109 or 1010 colony-forming units of the probiotic strain Lactobacillus plantarum over four consecutive days.
The results were significant.
“Intake of probiotics can increase iron absorption by approximately 50% from a fruit drink having an already relatively high iron bioavailability,” they wrote in the British Journal of Nutrition.
The research was conducted by scientists at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Lund University and University of Gothenburg in Sweden as well as Probi AB – the research group behind the patented strain in question.
In the first 109 dose trial, average iron absorption from the probiotic drink was 28.6% compared to 18.5% for the control drink.
In the second 1010 trial, it was 29.1% compared with 20.1% from the control drink.
This difference between the two probiotic dosages was not significant, they said.
Mechanisms behind the result
Discussing the mechanisms behind the effect, the researchers said it may be related to the colonisation of the bacteria in the intestine.
Alternatively the result could be down to an increase in colonic iron absorption due to a decrease in colonic pH, which reduces ferric iron into highly absorbable ferrous iron through lactobacilli growth.
Past research in southern India had found iron-deficient and anaemic women had significantly lower amounts of faecal lactobacilli than healthy control groups.
Most common nutritional disorder in the world
According the World Health Organisation (WHO) iron deficiency is the “most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world” with the deficiency spanning both developing and industrialised countries.
“The numbers are staggering: Two billion people – over 30% of the world’s population – are anaemic, many due to iron deficiency, and in resource-poor areas, this is frequently exacerbated by infectious diseases.”
The researchers said strategies to increase the intake of foods rich in iron enhance absorption were important.
It has been estimated that about 1200 different bacterial species inhabit the human gastrointestinal tract and that each individual harbours at least 160 of these species.
Source: British Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1017/S000711451500241X
“Probiotic strain Lactobacillus plantarum 299v increases iron absorption from an iron-supplemented fruit drink: a double-isotope cross-over single-blind study in women of reproductive age”
Authors: M. Hoppe, G. Önning, A. Berggren and L. Hulthén