The effect of a natural polyphenol supplement on iron absorption in adults with hereditary hemochromatosis

Eur J Nutr. 2022 Sep;61(6):2967-2977. doi: 10.1007/s00394-022-02829-8. Epub 2022 Mar 23.


Objectives: We developed a natural polyphenol supplement that strongly chelates iron in vitro and assessed its effect on non-heme iron absorption in patients with hereditary hemochromatosis (HH).

Methods: We performed in vitro iron digestion experiments to determine iron precipitation by 12 polyphenol-rich dietary sources, and formulated a polyphenol supplement (PPS) containing black tea powder, cocoa powder and grape juice extract. In a multi-center, single-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over study, we assessed the effect of the PPS on iron absorption from an extrinsically labelled test meal and test drink in patients (n = 14) with HH homozygous for the p.C282Y variant in the HFE gene. We measured fractional iron absorption (FIA) as stable iron isotope incorporation into erythrocytes.

Results: Black tea powder, cocoa powder and grape juice extract most effectively precipitated iron in vitro. A PPS mixture of these three extracts precipitated ~ 80% of iron when 2 g was added to a 500 g iron solution containing 20 µg Fe/g. In the iron absorption study, the PPS reduced FIA by ~ 40%: FIA from the meal consumed with the PPS was lower (3.01% (1.60, 5.64)) than with placebo (5.21% (3.92, 6.92)) (p = 0.026)), and FIA from the test drink with the PPS was lower (10.3% (7.29 14.6)) than with placebo (16.9% (12.8 22.2)) (p = 0.002).

Conclusion: Our results indicate that when taken with meals, this natural PPS can decrease dietary iron absorption, and might thereby reduce body iron accumulation and the frequency of phlebotomy in patients with HH.

Trial registry: (registration date: 9.6.2019, NCT03990181).

Keywords: Hereditary hemochromatosis; Iron absorption; Polyphenols; Reducing dietary iron absorption; Supplement.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Hemochromatosis Protein
  • Hemochromatosis* / drug therapy
  • Hemochromatosis* / genetics
  • Hemochromatosis* / metabolism
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics
  • Humans
  • Iron
  • Iron, Dietary
  • Polyphenols / pharmacology
  • Powders
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Tea


  • Hemochromatosis Protein
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Iron, Dietary
  • Polyphenols
  • Powders
  • Tea
  • Iron

Associated data