Erythorbic acid is a potent enhancer of nonheme-iron absorption

Meredith C. Fidler, Lena Davidsson, Christophe Zeder, Richard F. Hurrell

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34 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Erythorbic acid, a stereoisomer of ascorbic acid with similar physicochemical properties, is widely used as an antioxidant in processed foods. Objectives: The aims of the present study were to evaluate the effect of erythorbic acid on iron absorption from ferrous sulfate at molar ratios of 2:1 and 4:1 (relative to iron) and to compare the effect of erythorbic acid directly with that of ascorbic acid at a molar ratio of 4:1. Design: Iron absorption from iron-fortified cereal was measured in 10 women on the basis of erythrocyte incorporation of stable iron isotopes (57Fe or 58Fe) 14 d after administration. Each woman consumed 4 ferrous-sulfate-fortified test meals (containing 5 mg Fe/meal) with or without added erythorbic or ascorbic acid. The data were evaluated by use of paired t tests, and the results are presented as geometric means. Results: Iron absorption from the test meal without any added enhancer was 4.1%. The addition of erythorbic acid (at molar ratios of 2:1 and 4:1 relative to iron) increased iron absorption 2.6-fold (10.8%; P < 0.0001) and 4.6-fold (18.8%; P < 0.0001), respectively. The addition of ascorbic acid (molar ratio of 4:1) increased iron absorption 2.9-fold (11.7%; P = 0.0004). At a molar ratio of 4:1, erythorbic acid was 1.6-fold (P = 0.0002) as potent an enhancer of iron absorption as was ascorbic acid. Conclusion: Although erythorbic acid is a potent enhancer of iron absorption, its lack of antiscorbutic activity limits its usefulness in iron-fortification programs. However, it may play a major role in enhancing iron bioavailability from mixed diets that include foods preserved with erythorbic acid.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-102
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004


  • Absorption
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Erythorbic acid
  • Humans
  • Iron
  • Stable isotopes


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