The rate of absorption of iron is adjusted according to body iron requirements, but the virtual absence of heme and the poor bioavailability of the nonheme iron in the diets of many people, especially in developing countries, means that the amount that can be absorbed is limited. Those whose requirements are increased by growth, menstruation, or pregnancy frequently cannot absorb enough. Sufficient is now known about the factors in food that increase or diminish the bioavailability of nonheme iron to permit the effective fortification of dietary staples, although the application of this information has proved difficult particularly in the Third World where nutritional iron deficiency is most prevalent. Effective fortification may lead to iron overload in those whose control of iron absorption is genetically defective, and recent evidence that the HLA-linked recessive gene for idiopathic hemochromatosis may occur much more commonly than hitherto suspected makes it imperative that an effective monitoring system should form a part of every fortification program.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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