AB-Fortis®: Making iron supplementation and fortification simple

The importance of fortification and supplementation

Iron is an important mineral required for a number of essential physiological functions. Despite its importance, a shortage of iron remains one of the most serious micronutrient deficiencies in the world today.

The main population groups at risk of iron deficiency are women, in particular those who are pregnant, and young children: worldwide, iron deficiency reaches up to 50% in these populations. (1) 

However, many other groups, including adults in the developed world, are also affected. In the US alone it is estimated that at least 18 million people have a mild to severe iron deficiency.(2) Furthermore, people with certain dietary needs often find it difficult to achieve the recommended daily intake. For example, vegans and vegetarians need to ensure their diets contain adequate amounts of bioavailable iron, and healthy iron intake is also essential for athletes.

Because it is difficult to get the right amount of iron from normal dietary sources, fortification and supplementation are important strategies to tackle iron deficiency. Technical challenges Iron’s unique characteristics mean adding it to the diet creates several challenges. Its metallic taste and strong oxidative properties are both undesirable aspects in foods and it can react with other food constituents like vitamins and fatty acids. Furthermore, when used in food supplements, high concentrations often lead to gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, constipation or diarrhea, and potentially also to darkening of the teeth.(3,4) Finding the most suitable format for iron supplements is therefore a real challenge, as these problems increase the likelihood of fortified products or food supplements with high dosages of iron being rejected.(5)

AB-Fortis®: Meeting the challenges of fortification and supplementation

The micro-encapsulated iron AB-Fortis® presents a solution. In this unique technology, the iron is protected and kept stable by a natural, organic layer which avoids the release of free iron. As a result, there is no metallic taste, oxidation or negative gastrointestinal side effects. Key considerations for micro-encapsulated iron include mineral concentration, shelf life, stability, behavior in different food matrices, dosage and bioavailability. AB-Fortis® is a highly stable ingredient, sustaining high processing temperatures and pressures while preventing the release of free iron. Its stability, absence of metallic taste and low reactivity make it suitable for the fortification of different foods. It does not change the appearance or the taste of these fortified foods and the high content of iron in the microcapsule (40%) allows the use of very small dosages. In food supplements, it can be combined with other ingredients which are sensitive to oxidation, such as DHA and certain vitamins, ensuring the stability of all components.

AB-Fortis® microcapsules are produced through the gelation of alginate with calcium, entrapping the iron salt inside. When this calcium-alginate interaction is destabilized in the intestines (basic pH, bile salts), the iron is released from the microcapsule and can be efficiently absorbed. A human clinical study has shown similar oral absorption of this micro-encapsulated ferric saccharate in comparison with ferrous sulfate, which is currently the standard bioavailable iron form.(6) This two-way randomized cross-over double-blind postprandial intervention showed that AB-Fortis® and ferrous sulfate are absorbed in similar and sufficient amounts.

1. Asobayire, F, Adou P, Davidsson L, Cook JD, Hurrell RF. ‘Prevalence of iron deficiency with and without concurrent anemia in population groups with high prevalences of malaria and other infections: a study in Côte d’Ivoire.’ Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 74(6):776-82

2. Chi Huu Hong Le.’The Prevalence of Anemia and Moderate-Severe Anemia in the US Population (NHANES 2003-2012). 2016

3. S. Hyder, et al., ‘Do side-effects reduce compliance to iron supplementation? A study of daily-and weekly-dose regimens in pregnancy’ J Health Popul Nutr.2002

4. J. O. Mora, ‘Iron supplementation: overcoming technical and practical barriers’ J Nutr 2002, 132, 853S-855S.

5. M. G. Mannar ‘Successful food-based programmes, supplementation and fortification’ J PediatrGastroenterol Nutr 2006 6 C. Contreras, et al., Comparative study of the oral absorption of microencapsulated ferric saccharate and ferrous sulfate in humans, European Journal of Nutrition 2013, 1-8.