Both children and adults are very susceptible to iron deficiency. Recently, I discussed how to improve iron status.
A new study on iron-deficient rats revealed that prebiotics could increase iron absorption by affecting gut transporters.
The iron-poor diet was fed to rats for a month. This made them anemic. After 35 days, scientists switched the diet of the rats to a control diet, one with 10% high-performance inulin or one with 10% oligofructose. This was for two weeks. After two weeks of diet interventions, researchers examined the rats’ liver, duodenum and cecum for protein expression.
Prebiotic fiber Inulin, commonly found in Jerusalem artichokes and onions, raised the expression of divalent metal transporter-1 protein by 162%. This protein is vital for the binding and transportation of iron. Inulin had the additional benefit of increasing a duodenal enzyme called Cytochrome b Reductase. This reduces ferric (3+ to ferrous iron 2+), an important step in iron absorption from the small intestine.
Oligofructose supplementation reduced ferroportin. This protein reduces intra-cellular iron absorption by transporting it from the cells. It also reduced interleukin IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha in the cecum and urinary hepcidin. These proteins can reduce iron absorption during inflammation.
Although this preliminary study is inconclusive and may not impact humans, it might be worthwhile to consider increasing the intake of oligofructose and inulin in iron-deficient countries.