Is there a physiological role of vitamin C in iron absorption?

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1987;498:324-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1987.tb23771.x.


Nonheme iron usually constitutes more than 90% of the dietary iron. Its absorbability is a resultant of the balance between factors enhancing and inhibiting the absorption. Ascorbic acid is the most potent enhancer, and is the same for native and synthetic AA. The enhancing effect is strongly dose related (log dose/effect), and is different for different meals probably mainly due to varying content of inhibitors in the meals. AA also increases the iron absorption from simple meals with no known inhibitor, probably because AA impairs the formation of unavailable iron complexes with ligands normally present in the gastrointestinal lumen. The effect of AA is so unequivocal and marked that it must be considered as a physiological factor essential for the absorption of dietary iron.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology
  • Ascorbic Acid / physiology*
  • Diet
  • Food
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Phytic Acid / pharmacology


  • Phytic Acid
  • Iron
  • Ascorbic Acid