Influence of ascorbic acid on iron absorption from an iron-fortified, chocolate-flavored milk drink in Jamaican children

Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 May;67(5):873-7. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/67.5.873.


The influence of ascorbic acid on iron absorption from an iron-fortified, chocolate-flavored milk drink (6.3 mg total Fe per serving) was evaluated with a stable-isotope technique in 20 6-7-y-old Jamaican children. Each child received two test meals labeled with 5.6 mg 57Fe and 3.0 mg 58Fe as ferrous sulfate on 2 consecutive days. Three different doses of ascorbic acid (0, 25, and 50 mg per 25-g serving) were evaluated in two separate studies by using a crossover design. Iron isotope ratios were measured by negative thermal ionization mass spectrometry. In the first study, iron absorption was significantly greater (P < 0.0001) after the addition of 25 mg ascorbic acid: geometric mean iron absorption was 1.6% (range: 0.9-4.2%) and 5.1% (2.2-17.3%) for the test meals containing 0 and 25 mg ascorbic acid, respectively. In the second study, a significant difference (P < 0.05) in iron absorption was observed when the ascorbic acid content was increased from 25 to 50 mg: geometric mean iron absorption was 5.4% (range: 2.7-10.8%) compared with 7.7% (range: 4.7-16.5%), respectively. The chocolate drink contained relatively high amounts of polyphenolic compounds, phytic acid, and calcium, all well-known inhibitors of iron absorption. The low iron absorption without added ascorbic acid shows that chocolate milk is a poor vehicle for iron fortification unless sufficient amounts of an iron-absorption enhancer are added. Regular consumption of iron-fortified chocolate milk drinks containing added ascorbic acid could have a positive effect on iron nutrition in population groups vulnerable to iron deficiency.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Cacao*
  • Child
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Ferritins / drug effects
  • Food Analysis
  • Food, Fortified* / analysis
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / drug effects
  • Iron / administration & dosage*
  • Iron / pharmacokinetics*
  • Jamaica
  • Male
  • Milk*


  • Hemoglobins
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Ferritins
  • Iron
  • Ascorbic Acid