A combination of dietary and host-related factors determines iron and zinc absorption, and several in vitro methods have been developed as preliminary screening tools for assessing bioavailability. An expert committee has reviewed evidence for their usefulness and reached a consensus. Dialyzability (with and without simulated digestion) gives some useful information but cannot predict the correct magnitude of response and may sometimes predict the wrong direction of response. Caco-2 cell systems (with and without simulated digestion) have been developed for iron availability, but the magnitude of different effects does not always agree with results obtained in human volunteers, and the data for zinc are too limited to draw conclusions about the validity of the method. Caco-2 methodologies vary significantly between laboratories and require experienced technicians and good quality cell culture facilities to obtain reproducible results. Algorithms can provide semi-quantitative information enabling diets to be classified as high, moderate, or low bioavailability. While in vitro methods can be used to generate ideas and develop hypotheses, they cannot be used alone for important decisions concerning food fortification policy, selection of varieties for plant breeding programs, or for new product development in the food industry. Ultimately human studies are required for such determinations.
- Biological Availability
- Caco-2 Cells