Iron in food and its availability

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The iron stores of full-term, breast-fed infants become depleted by the age of 6 months, but this may occur earlier when they are fed formula that is not fortified with iron. There is a high requirement for iron, and therefore the selection of appropriate weaning foods is critical at this time. Continued consumption of breast milk or iron-fortified formulas until the age of one year will help maintain an adequate iron status, particularly in infants given diets of low iron availability. Many dietary constituents affect the availability of inorganic iron from foods, the most important ones in the case of the infant are ascorbic acid and haem iron, both of which enhance the absorption of inorganic iron. The majority of commercially-prepared infant foods contain added iron and ascorbic acid, thereby providing sufficient absorbable iron for the growing infant. On the other hand, the results of the few studies that have been carried out on infants suggest that many unfortified vegetable and cereal meals contain iron of low availability. This can, however, be increased by the simultaneous intake of fruit juices high in ascorbic acid. The recent advances made in stable isotope methodology should facilitate studies on iron absorption in infants, thereby leading to a better understanding of iron availability from foods.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-20
Number of pages9
JournalActa paediatrica Scandinavica. Supplement
Publication statusPublished - 1989


  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Food
  • Iron
  • Nutritive Value

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