The Journal of nutrition

A complete diet-based algorithm for predicting nonheme iron absorption in adults.

PMID 23700342


Many algorithms have been developed in the past few decades to estimate nonheme iron absorption from the diet based on single meal absorption studies. Yet single meal studies exaggerate the effect of diet and other factors on absorption. Here, we propose a new algorithm based on complete diets for estimating nonheme iron absorption. We used data from 4 complete diet studies each with 12-14 participants for a total of 53 individuals (19 men and 34 women) aged 19-38 y. In each study, each participant was observed during three 1-wk periods during which they consumed different diets. The diets were typical, high, or low in meat, tea, calcium, or vitamin C. The total sample size was 159 (53 × 3) observations. We used multiple linear regression to quantify the effect of different factors on iron absorption. Serum ferritin was the most important factor in explaining differences in nonheme iron absorption, whereas the effect of dietary factors was small. When our algorithm was validated with single meal and complete diet data, the respective R(2) values were 0.57 (P < 0.001) and 0.84 (P < 0.0001). The results also suggest that between-person variations explain a large proportion of the differences in nonheme iron absorption. The algorithm based on complete diets we propose is useful for predicting nonheme iron absorption from the diets of different populations.