European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 54, Issue 8, pp 1345–1352 | Cite as

Iron bioavailability from commercially available iron supplements

  • Tatiana ChristidesEmail author
  • David Wray
  • Richard McBride
  • Rose Fairweather
  • Paul Sharp
Original Contribution



Iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is a global public health problem. Treatment with the standard of care ferrous iron salts may be poorly tolerated, leading to non-compliance and ineffective correction of IDA. Employing supplements with higher bioavailability might permit lower doses of iron to be used with fewer side effects, thus improving treatment efficacy. Here, we compared the iron bioavailability of ferrous sulphate tablets with alternative commercial iron products, including three liquid-based supplements.


Iron bioavailability was measured using Caco-2 cells with ferritin formation as a surrogate marker for iron uptake. Statistical analysis was performed using one-way ANOVA followed by either Dunnett’s or Tukey’s multiple comparisons tests.


Spatone Apple® (a naturally iron-rich mineral water with added ascorbate) and Iron Vital F® (a synthetic liquid iron supplement) had the highest iron bioavailability. There was no statistical difference between iron uptake from ferrous sulphate tablets, Spatone® (naturally iron-rich mineral water alone) and Pregnacare Original® (a multimineral/multivitamin tablet).


In our in vitro model, naturally iron-rich mineral waters and synthetic liquid iron formulations have equivalent or better bioavailability compared with ferrous iron sulphate tablets. If these results are confirmed in vivo, this would mean that at-risk groups of IDA could be offered a greater choice of more bioavailable and potentially better tolerated iron preparations.


Iron supplements Anaemia Pregnancy Bariatric surgery Micronutrient deficiency Caco-2 cells 



This work was supported by the Faculty of Engineering and Science at the University of Greenwich, and the Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences Division at King’s College London. We thank David Scott Ganis for assistance with statistical and numerical analysis.

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

394_2014_815_MOESM1_ESM.docx (37 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 36 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tatiana Christides
    • 1
    Email author
  • David Wray
    • 2
  • Richard McBride
    • 1
  • Rose Fairweather
    • 3
  • Paul Sharp
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Life and Sports Sciences, Faculty of Engineering and ScienceUniversity of Greenwich, Medway CampusChatham Maritime, KentUK
  2. 2.Department of Pharmaceutical, Chemical and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Engineering and ScienceUniversity of Greenwich, Medway CampusChatham Maritime, KentUK
  3. 3.Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences Division, Metal Metabolism Group, School of MedicineKing’s College LondonLondonUK

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