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There appears to be a linear relation between ascorbic acid intake and iron absorption up to at least 100 mg of ascorbic acid per meal.

Because ascorbic acid improves iron absorption through the release of nonheme iron bound to inhibitors, the enhanced absorption effect is most marked when consumed with foods containing high levels of inhibitors, including phytate and tannins. Ascorbic acid has been shown to improve iron absorption from infant weaning foods by two- to six-fold (Derman et al., 1980; Fairweather-Tait et al., 1995a).

Other Organic Acids. Other organic acids including citric acid, lactic acid, and malic acid have not been studied as thoroughly as ascorbic acid, but they also have some enhancing effects on nonheme iron absorption (Gillooly et al., 1983).

Animal Tissues. Meat, fish, and poultry improve iron nutrition both by providing highly bioavailable heme iron and by enhancing nonheme iron absorption. The mechanism of this enhancing effect on nonheme iron absorption is poorly described though it is likely to involve low molecular weight peptides that are released during digestion (Taylor et al., 1986).

Nutrient:Nutrient Interactions: Inhibitors of Nonheme Iron Absorption

Phytate. Phytic acid (inositol hexaphosphate) is present in legumes, rice, and grains. The inhibition of iron absorption from added iron is related to the level of phytate in a food (Brune et al., 1992; Cook et al., 1997). The absorption of iron was shown to increase four- to five-fold when the phytic acid concentration was reduced from 4.9 to 8.4 mg/g, to less than 0.1 mg/g in soy protein isolate (Hurrell et al., 1992). Genetically modified, low-phytic acid strains of maize have been developed. Iron absorption with consumption of low-phytic acid strains was 49 percent greater than with consumption of wild type strains of maize (Mendoza et al., 1998). Still, the overall availability of iron remained quite low and generally under 8 percent, even for subjects with marginal iron status. The absorption of iron from legumes such as soybeans, black beans, lentils, mung beans, and split peas has been shown to be very low (0.84 to 1.91 percent) and similar to each other (Lynch et al., 1984). Because phytate and iron are concentrated in the aleurone layer and germ of grains, milling to white flour and white rice reduces the content of phytate



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