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Ferrous fumarate is recommended for the fortification of complementary foods based on similar iron absorption to ferrous sulfate in adults. Two recent studies in young children have reported that it is only 30% as well absorbed as ferrous sulfate. The objective of this study was to compare iron absorption from ferrous fumarate and ferrous sulfate in infants, young children and mothers. Non-anemic Mexican infants (6-24 months), young children (2-5 years) and adult women were randomly assigned to receive either 4 mg Fe (women) or 2.5 mg Fe (infants and young children) as either [(57)Fe]-ferrous fumarate or [(58)Fe]-ferrous sulfate added to a sweetened drink based on degermed maize flour and milk powder. Iron absorption was calculated based on incorporation of isotopes into erythrocytes after 14 days. Within each population group, no significant differences (P > 0.05) in iron absorption were found between ferrous fumarate and ferrous sulfate. Mean iron absorption from ferrous fumarate vs ferrous sulfate was 17.5 vs 20.5% in women (relative bioavailability (RBV) =86), 7.0 vs 7.2% in infants (RBV = 97) and 6.3 vs 5.9% in young children (RBV = 106). Ferrous fumarate is as well absorbed as ferrous sulfate in non-anemic, iron sufficient infants and young children, and can be recommended as a useful fortification compound for complementary foods designed to prevent iron deficiency. Further studies are needed to clarify its usefulness in foods designed to treat iron deficiency.


M Harrington, C Hotz, C Zeder, G O Polvo, S Villalpando, M B Zimmermann, T Walczyk, J A Rivera, R F Hurrell. A comparison of the bioavailability of ferrous fumarate and ferrous sulfate in non-anemic Mexican women and children consuming a sweetened maize and milk drink. European journal of clinical nutrition. 2011 Jan;65(1):20-5

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PMID: 20842166

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