Pomegranate Juice Enhances Iron Dialysability and Assimilation in In-Vitro Cell Free and Cell-Based Models

Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2020 Jun;75(2):272-278. doi: 10.1007/s11130-020-00815-1.


Despite concerted programmatic efforts iron deficiency anemia (IDA) continues to be a global health problem. Per Ayurveda, an Indian Traditional Medical System, natural plant materials such as pomegranate juice (PJ) is indicated as a food supplement to manage IDA. We hypothesized that pomegranate could play a role in improving absorption and assimilation of iron. A cell free in vitro model simulating the gastric and intestinal digestive processes coupled with cell based (Caco-2 and HepG2) models were used to assess iron (FeSO4 form) dialysability in the presence of PJ. Iron assimilation into cells was measured in terms of the cellular ferritin content. PJ (containing ~13 mg/100 ml natural ascorbic acid equivalent) increased the dialysability of iron by >3 fold when compared to control in the cell free model. An equivalent concentration of ascorbic acid alone increased it only by 1.6-fold. PJ increased the iron uptake in Caco2 cells by ~6-fold and ferritin content by 30% when compared to the ascorbic acid control. Similarly, PJ enhanced the iron uptake in HepG2 cells by ~3 fold and iron assimilation by about 50%. This study establishes a scientific evidence for Ayurveda's claim of using pomegranate in the management of IDA by facilitating iron absorption and assimilation. It provides a simple solution for addressing the global problem of IDA. Synergistic action of multiple phytochemicals, over and above ascorbic acid, in PJ may be responsible for improving iron bioavailability.

Keywords: Ascorbic acid; Ayurveda; In vitro model; Iron bioavailability; Iron deficiency anemia; Pomegranate juice.

MeSH terms

  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Ferritins
  • Humans
  • Iron*
  • Pomegranate*


  • Ferritins
  • Iron
  • Ascorbic Acid