Polyphenols and phytic acid contribute to the low iron bioavailability from common beans in young women

J Nutr. 2010 Nov;140(11):1977-82. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.125369. Epub 2010 Sep 22.


Low iron absorption from common beans might contribute to iron deficiency in countries where beans are a staple food. High levels of phytic acid (PA) and polyphenols (PP) inhibit iron absorption; however, the effect of bean PP on iron absorption in humans has not been demonstrated and, with respect to variety selection, the relative importance of PP and PA is unclear. To evaluate the influence of bean PP relative to PA on iron absorption in humans, 6 stable iron isotope absorption studies were conducted in women (16 or 17 per study). Bean PP (20, 50, and 200 mg) were added in studies 1-3 as red bean hulls to a bread meal. Studies 4- 6 investigated the influence on iron absorption of PP removal and dephytinization of whole red bean porridge and PP removal from dephytinized porridge. Iron absorption was lowered by 14% with 50 mg PP (P < 0.05) and by 45% with 200 mg PP (P < 0.001). The mean iron absorption from whole bean porridge was 2.5%. PP and PA removal increased absorption 2.6-fold (P < 0.001) and removal of PP from dephytinized porridge doubled absorption (P < 0.001). Between-study comparisons indicated that dephytinization did not increase iron absorption in the presence of PP, but in their absence, absorption increased 3.4-fold (P < 0.001). These data suggest that in countries where beans are a staple food, PP and PA concentrations should be considered when selecting bean varieties for human consumption. Lowering only one inhibitor will have a modest influence on iron absorption.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bread / analysis
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Diet*
  • Fabaceae / chemistry*
  • Female
  • Flavonoids / administration & dosage*
  • Flavonoids / analysis
  • Food Handling / methods
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption*
  • Iron Isotopes
  • Iron, Dietary / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenols / administration & dosage*
  • Phenols / analysis
  • Phytic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Phytic Acid / analysis
  • Polyphenols
  • Seeds / chemistry*
  • Young Adult


  • Flavonoids
  • Iron Isotopes
  • Iron, Dietary
  • Phenols
  • Polyphenols
  • Phytic Acid