The Role of Ascorbate in Iron Absorption

Inorganic dietary iron is absorbed as Fe2+ and not as Fe3+; ascorbic acid in the intestinal lumen not only maintains iron in the reduced state but also chelates it, increasing absorption considerably. A dose of 25 mg of vitamin C taken together with a meal increases the absorption of iron approximately 65%, while a 1g dose gives a 9-fold increase. This is an effect of ascorbic acid present together with the test meal; neither intravenous administration of vitamin C nor supplements several hours before the test meal affects iron absorption, although the ascorbate secreted in gastric juice should be effective. This is not a specific effect of ascorbate; a variety of other reducing agents including alcohol and fructose also enhance the absorption of inorganic iron.

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