Factors affecting the absorption of iron from cereals

Br J Nutr. 1984 Jan;51(1):37-46. doi: 10.1079/bjn19840007.


Non-haem-iron absorption from a variety of cereal and fibre meals was measured in parous Indian women, using the erythrocyte utilization of radioactive Fe method. The present study was undertaken to establish whether alteration of the phytate and polyphenol contents of sorghum (Sorghum vulgare) affected Fe absorption from sorghum meals, and to assess the influence of fibre on Fe absorption. Removing the outer layers of sorghum grain by pearling reduced the polyphenol and phytate contents by 96 and 92% respectively. This treatment significantly increased the geometric mean Fe absorption from 0.017 to 0.035 (t 3.9, P less than 0.005). The geometric mean Fe absorption from a sorghum cultivar that lacked polyphenols (albino sorghum) was 0.043, which was significantly greater than the 0.019 absorbed from bird-proof sorghum, a cultivar with a high polyphenol content (t 2.83, P less than 0.05). Fe was less well absorbed from the phytate-rich pearlings of the albino sorghum than from the pearled albino sorghum (0.015 v. 0.035 (t 8.4, P less than 0.0005]. Addition of sodium phytate to a highly Fe-bioavailable broccoli (Brassica oleracea) meal reduced Fe absorption from 0.185 to 0.037. The geometric mean Fe absorption from malted sorghum porridge was 0.024 when 9.5 mg ascorbic acid were added and 0.094 when the ascorbic acid was increased to 50 mg (t 3.33, P less than 0.005). This enhancing effect of 50 mg ascorbic acid was significantly depressed to 0.04 by tea (t 38.1, P less than 0.0005).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology
  • Dietary Fiber / pharmacology*
  • Edible Grain*
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Flavonoids*
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption* / drug effects
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Phenols / pharmacology
  • Phytic Acid / pharmacology
  • Polymers / pharmacology
  • Polyphenols
  • Species Specificity
  • Transferrin / analysis


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Flavonoids
  • Hemoglobins
  • Phenols
  • Polymers
  • Polyphenols
  • Transferrin
  • Phytic Acid
  • Ferritins
  • Iron
  • Ascorbic Acid