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Iron Bioavailability and Provitamin A from Sweet Potato- and Cereal-Based Complementary Foods

Iron and vitamin A deficiencies in childhood are public health problems in the developing world. Introduction of cereal-based complementary foods, that are often poor sources of both vitamin A and bioavailable iron, increases the risk of deficiency in young children. Alternative foods with higher levels of vitamin A and bioavailable iron could help alleviate these micronutrient deficiencies. The objective of this study was to compare iron bioavailability of β-carotene-rich sweet potato-based complementary foods (orange-flesh based sweet potato (OFSP) ComFa and cream-flesh sweet potato based (CFSP) ComFa with a household cereal-based complementary food (Weanimix) and a commercial cereal (Cerelac®), using the in vitro digestion/Caco-2 cell model. Iron bioavailability relative to total iron, concentrations of iron-uptake inhibitors (fibre, phytates, and polyphenols), and enhancers (ascorbic acid, ß-carotene and fructose) was also evaluated. All foods contained similar amounts of iron, but bioavailability varied: Cerelac® had the highest, followed by OFSP ComFa and Weanimix, which had equivalent bioavailable iron; CFSP ComFa had the lowest bioavailability. The high iron bioavailability from Cerelac® was associated with the highest levels of ascorbic acid, and the lowest levels of inhibitors; polyphenols appeared to limit sweet potato-based food iron bioavailability. Taken together, the results do not support that CFSP- and OFSP ComFa are better sources of bioavailable iron compared with non-commercial/household cereal-based weaning foods; however, they may be a good source of provitamin A in the form of β-carotene.


Christides, T., Amagloh, F. K., & Coad, J. (2015). Iron bioavailability and provitamin A from sweet potato- and cereal-based complementary foods. Foods, 4(3), 463 - 476. doi:10.3390/foods4030463