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A study to establish whether food‐based approaches can improve serum iron levels in child‐bearing aged women

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Background:  Iron‐deficiency anaemia is particularly prevalent in pregnancy. The present study aimed to determine whether functional bread containing teff flour (i.e. naturally rich in iron) could be an alternative way of improving iron status. However, before testing whether its consumption can improve pregnancy iron status, the bio‐availability of iron was determined in a sample of nonpregnant women.

Methods:  Fifty‐eight women (20–50 years) were recruited from the University. Blood samples were taken at baseline to assess iron status and participants were screened to account for other factors affecting iron status. Twenty‐four participants (haemoglobin 9.5–14.0 g dL−1) were recruited to take part in the intervention and allocated to five groups: (i) control bread (CB); (ii) teff bread (TB); (iii) TB + level 1 phytase (TB + P1); (iv) TB + level 2 phytase (TB + P2); or (v) a supplement containing 10 mg of ferrous sulphate. Venous blood samples were taken before the intervention and after 180–210 min, aiming to determine changes in serum iron.

Results:  Consuming three or four slices of TB provided statistically significantly more iron (7.6 mg) than CB (5.1 mg) (P <0.001). Because participants were fasted, serum iron levels declined in all bread groups (average −1.5 μm), although the smallest reduction was observed in the TB + P2 group (−0.3 μm). The area‐under‐the‐curve from baseline to 210 min was lower in the TB + P2 (−78.8 μmol min L−1) group compared to the other bread interventions, indicating higher levels of iron absorption in this group.

Conclusions:  The results obtained in the present study show that TB consumption may help to maintain serum iron levels, especially when phytase is added. The findings from the study also demonstrate there may be potential to further improve the bio‐availability of iron from non‐haem food sources.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Food and Tourism Management, Hollings Faculty, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK

Publication date: 2012-02-01

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