The purpose of this paper is to screen for iron bioavailability and absorption-promoting activity in selected herbs. Evidence is needed to promote and practice food-based strategies such as use of plants or their parts for treating iron deficiency anemia.
Eight Indian herbs, considered to be iron rich and/or hematinic, namely, Boerhavia diffusa, Trachyspermum ammi, Amaranthus paniculatus, Lepidium sativum, Medicago sativa, Asparagus racemosus, Sesamum indicum and Piper longum, were selected. Their mineral composition and phytate and tannin contents were analyzed. Endogenous iron bioavailability was assessed in human enterocyte cell line model, Caco-2 cells, using cellular ferritin induction. Iron absorption-promoting activity was tested similarly in two herbs and their mineral extract by the addition of exogenous iron or ascorbic acid.
Based on compositional analysis, B. diffusa, L. sativum and T. ammi had high iron (> 40 mg/100 g) and tannin/phytate. A. paniculatus, M. sativa, P. longum, S. indicum had low iron (10-15 mg/100 g) with high phytate and tannin. A. racemosus had 38 mg/100 g iron and low phytate and tannin. None of the herbs induced Caco-2 cell ferritin, indicating poor endogenous iron bioavailability. Mineral solutions of, two contrasting herbs (inhibitor content), B. diffusa and A. racemosus induced ferritin with ascorbic acid and not with exogenous iron, suggesting that these are devoid of iron absorption-promoting activity.
Incorporation of such herbs in diets may enhance iron content but not its bioavailability.
Selected edible herbs have been screened for iron bioavailability and its absorption-promoting activity. This has implications in planning evidence-based strategies to correct iron deficiency in general population.
The authors thank B. Sesikeran (Former Director), K. Polasa (Director In-charge), G.M. Subba Rao (Scientist D, National Institute of Nutrition for the critical comments) and V. Padma (Director, Institute of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, Bangalore) for carrying out authentication of herbs and providing the report. The fellowship of Swarnim Gupta from University Grant Commission, Government of India, is greatly acknowledged.
Conflict of interest: the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the manuscript.
Gupta, S., Madhavan Nair, K., Punjal, R., Rajendran, A. and Pullakhandam, R. (2014), "Herbs as a dietary source of iron: Screening for iron bioavailability and absorption-promoting activity in selected herbs", Nutrition & Food Science, Vol. 44 No. 5, pp. 443-454. https://doi.org/10.1108/NFS-09-2013-0107Download as .RIS
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