Ferrous sulfate is more bioavailable among preschoolers than other forms of iron in a milk-based weaning food distributed by PROGRESA, a national program in Mexico

Ana B. Pérez-Expósito, Salvador Villalpando, Juan A. Rivera, Ian J. Griffin, Steven A. Abrams

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After 1 y of distributing a milk-based fortified weaning food provided by the Mexican social program PROGRESA, positive effects on physical growth, prevalence of anemia, and several vitamin deficiencies were observed. There was no effect on iron status, which we hypothesized was related to the poor bioavallability of the reduced iron used as a fortificant in PROGRESA. The objective of this study was to compare the iron bioavailability from different iron sources added as fortificants to the weaning food. Children (n = 54) aged 2-4 y were randomly assigned to receive 44 g of the weaning food fortified with ferrous sulfate, ferrous fumarate, or reduced iron + Na2EDTA. Iron absorption was measured using an established double-tracer isotopic methodology. Iron absorption from ferrous sulfate (7.9 ± 9.8%) was greater than from either ferrous fumarate (2.43 ± 2.3%) or reduced iron + Na 2EDTA (1.4 ± 1.3%) (P < 0.01). The absorption of log- 58Fe sulfate given with the iron source correlated with serum ferritin (s-ferritin) concentration (n = 13, r = 0.63, P = 0.01) and log- 57Fe absorption (reference dose) (n = 14, r = -0.52, P = 0.02). Absorption from ferrous fumarate and reduced iron + Na2EDTA did not correlate with s-ferritin or absorption of 57Fe. The recommended daily portion of the fortified complementary food provides an average of 0.256, 0.096, 0.046 mmol (1.44, 0.54, and 0.26 mg) of absorbed iron, if fortified with sulfate, fumarate and reduced iron + Na2EDTA, respectively. Ferrous sulfate was more bioavailable than either ferrous fumarate or reduced iron + Na 2EDTA when added to the milk-based fortified food and more readily met the average daily iron requirements for children 2-3 y of age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-69
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005
Externally publishedYes



  • Fortification
  • Iron absorption
  • Stable isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science

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