Dietary iron intakes based on food composition data may underestimate the contribution of potentially exchangeable contaminant iron from soil

Rosalind S. Gibson, Anna A. Wawer, Susan J. Fairweather-Tait, Rachel Hurst, Scott D. Young, Martin R. Broadley, Allan D.c. Chilimba, E. Louise Ander, Michael J. Watts, Alexander Kalimbira, Karl B. Bailey, Edwin W.p. Siyame

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Iron intakes calculated from one-day weighed records were compared with those from same day analyzed duplicate diet composites collected from 120 Malawian women living in two rural districts with contrasting soil mineralogy and where threshing may contaminate cereals with soil iron. Soils and diet composites from the two districts were then subjected to a simulated gastrointestinal digestion and iron availability in the digests measured using a Caco-2 cell model. Median analyzed iron intakes (mg/d) were higher (p < 0.001) than calculated intakes in both Zombwe (16.6 vs. 10.1 mg/d) and Mikalango (29.6 vs. 19.1 mg/d), attributed to some soil contaminant iron based on high Al and Ti concentrations in diet composites. A small portion of iron in acidic soil from Zombwe, but not Mikalango calcareous soil, was bioavailable, as it induced ferritin expression in the cells, and may have contributed to higher plasma ferritin and total body iron for the Zombwe women reported earlier, despite lower iron intakes. In conclusion, iron intakes calculated from food composition data were underestimated, highlighting the importance of analyzing duplicate diet composites where extraneous contaminant iron from soil is likely. Acidic contaminant soil may make a small but useful contribution to iron nutrition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-23
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Food Composition and Analysis
Early online date14 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • Contaminant soil iron
  • Iron intakes
  • Food composition data
  • Diet composites
  • Ferritin
  • Food analysis
  • Caco-2 cell model
  • Malawi
  • Food composition

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