News last update:7 Aug 2012

Inulin helps pigs to better absorb iron

Swine research from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in the US indicates that inulin--a complex carbohydrate found in many plants worldwide--may help people absorb more iron from fruits, vegetables and grains.

In Ithaca, New York, ARS plant physiologist Ross Welch, of the U.S. Plant, Soil, and Nutrition Laboratory, and Cornell University scientists Koji Yasuda, Karl R. Roneker, Xingen Lei, and Dennis D. Miller showed that young pigs fed corn- and soy-based diets supplemented with inulin absorbed more iron from their feed than pigs fed the same diet without inulin.

Benefits for humans
Welch says the discovery may prove significant in the worldwide fight against iron deficiency. "Without inulin, the colon absorbs very little iron from staple plant-based foods such as soybeans and corn because they contain high amounts of phytic acid that inhibit iron absorption."

Young pigs were used, says Welch, because "They're an excellent model for studying human iron nutrition. Their gastrointestinal tract anatomy and digestive physiology are very similar to those in humans."

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