Fortification of fruit juice with a microencapsulated iron salt may be an easy and cost-effective way of boosting iron levels in at-risk women, says a new study from Spain.
The iron status of women with low iron levels was corrected after 16 weeks of consuming a daily glass of orange juice fortified with microencapsulated iron pyrophosphate, according to scientists from Spain’s Institute of Food Science and Technology and Nutrition (ICTAN).
“The present study clearly shows that it is feasible to increase iron status in an at-risk population by daily consumption of a microencapsulated iron pyrophosphate-fortified fruit juice and that the effects are detected in a short period of time (4 weeks),” wrote the researchers in the British Journal of Nutrition.
“This quantity of iron is within the range of supplemental minerals added in European commercial foods (20 percent of the RDA per 100 ml),” they added.
Iron deficiency affects about a third of the global population, with two billion people anemic around the world. It is the leading nutrient deficiency in both developed as well as developing countries.
Two main avenues are open to redress the balance in favor of iron: supplementation and fortification. Fortification has been touted as the best way because it is less expensive and can reach a bigger population. Fortification also avoids the gastrointestinal discomfort experienced when supplements containing over 100 mg/d of iron are consumed.
“However, iron is the most challenging micronutrient to add to foods,” said the researchers, “because the Fe compounds that have the best bioavailability tend to be those that interact most strongly with food constituents producing undesirable organoleptic changes.
“Among iron fortificants, ferric pyrophosphate allows appropriate food processing, and it is easily and effectively absorbed while producing negligible color and palatability changes,” they added.
The Madrid-based researchers recruited 122 women to participate in their randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Women were randomly assigned to receive either iron fortified orange juice or a placebo fruit juice for 16 weeks.
The iron-fortified juice contained iron in the form of microencapsulated iron pyrophosphate coated with lecithin, and formulated to provide the equivalent of 100 percent of the RDA – or 18 milligrams of iron per 500 mL carton.
Results showed that levels of a protein that stores iron called ferritin were 80 percent higher in women consuming the iron-fortified juice after 16 weeks, compared with women consuming the placebo juice.
The researchers also noted improvements in other measures of iron status in the women consuming the fortified juice.
“Iron-fortified juice consumption should be recommended to individuals with predisposition to iron-deficiency anemia but not to those at risk of excessive Fe intake who do not need to increase their iron supply, such as patients with iron overload,” wrote the researchers.
“Therefore, consumption of an iron-fortified fruit juice may be considered as a supplement to prevent iron-deficient anemia in population risk groups, such as women of child-bearing age, pregnant women or children. These groups have a high acceptance of fruit juices, and the concept of functional foods also has high acceptance in developed countries.
“The present study can have repercussions on public health as prevention of one of the most widespread diseases will have important economic impact, decreasing the need to use public health services and pharmaceutical Fe supplements,” they added.
The researchers noted that further research should focus on testing the palatability and acceptability of the fortified juice.
Source: British Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, FirstView Articles, doi: 10.1017/S0007114510005490
“Efficacy of a microencapsulated iron pyrophosphate-fortified fruit juice: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in Spanish iron-deficient women”
Authors: R. Blanco-Rojo, A.M. Perez-Granados, L. Toxqui, C. Gonzalez-Vizcayno, M.A. Delgado, M.P. Vaquero