Inhibition of iron uptake by phytic acid, tannic acid, and ZnCl2: studies using an in vitro digestion/Caco-2 cell model

J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Jan 16;50(2):390-5. doi: 10.1021/jf011046u.


The objective of this study was to document the effects of phytic acid, tannic acid, and zinc on iron uptake in an in vitro digestion/Caco-2 cell culture model. The effects of phytic acid and tannic acid on iron uptake were measured at increasing molar ratios of FeCl3 to phytic acid or tannic acid. Maximal inhibition of iron uptake by phytic acid occurred at a 1:10 ratio of Fe to phytic acid. Dialyzable Fe decreased with a low Fe to phytic acid ratio but increased with Fe:phytic acid ratios greater than 1:3 indicating that more iron was soluble at higher phytic acid levels but less available. As in human studies, heme iron was less inhibited by phytic acid than nonheme iron. Tannic acid was a more potent inhibitor of nonheme iron uptake, as maximal inhibition (97.5%) of iron uptake occurred at a ratio of 1:1 or less. The addition of ZnCl2 to the digest at ratios of 1:0.5 and 1:1 decreased iron uptake by 57 and 80%, respectively. Overall, the results agree qualitatively with studies in humans and demonstrate the relative effects of these compounds on iron uptake in this model system. This study provides key information for determining iron availability under more complex meal conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Absorption / drug effects
  • Caco-2 Cells / drug effects
  • Caco-2 Cells / metabolism*
  • Chlorides / pharmacology*
  • Digestion / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hydrolyzable Tannins / pharmacology*
  • Iron / pharmacokinetics*
  • Phytic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Zinc Compounds / pharmacology*


  • Chlorides
  • Hydrolyzable Tannins
  • Zinc Compounds
  • Phytic Acid
  • zinc chloride
  • Iron