Article abstract

Nature Nanotechnology 5, 374 - 380 (2010)
Published online: 25 April 2010 | doi:10.1038/nnano.2010.79

Subject Categories: Nanomaterials | Nanoparticles

Iron from nanocompounds containing iron and zinc is highly bioavailable in rats without tissue accumulation

Florentine M. Hilty1, Myrtha Arnold2, Monika Hilbe3, Alexandra Teleki4, Jesper T. N. Knijnenburg4, Felix Ehrensperger3, Richard F. Hurrell1, Sotiris E. Pratsinis4, Wolfgang Langhans2 & Michael B. Zimmermann1

Effective iron fortification of foods is difficult, because water-soluble compounds that are well absorbed, such as ferrous sulphate (FeSO4), often cause unacceptable changes in the colour or taste of foods. Poorly water-soluble compounds, on the other hand, cause fewer sensory changes, but are not well absorbed. Here, we show that poorly water-soluble nanosized Fe and Fe/Zn compounds (specific surface area ~190 m2 g−1) made by scalable flame aerosol technology have in vivo iron bioavailability in rats comparable to FeSO4 and cause less colour change in reactive food matrices than conventional iron fortificants. The addition of Zn to FePO4 and Mg to Fe/Zn oxide increases Fe absorption from the compounds, and doping with Mg also improves their colour. After feeding rats with nanostructured iron-containing compounds, no stainable Fe was detected in their gut wall, gut-associated lymphatics or other tissues, suggesting no adverse effects. Nanosizing of poorly water-soluble Fe compounds sharply increases their absorption and nutritional value.

  1. Human Nutrition Laboratory, Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health, ETH Zurich, Schmelzbergstrasse 7, LFV E19, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland
  2. Physiology and Behaviour Laboratory, Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health, ETH Zurich, Schorenstrasse 16, 8603 Schwerzenbach, Switzerland
  3. Institute of Veterinary Pathology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  4. Particle Technology Laboratory, Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering, ETH Zurich, Sonneggstrasse 3, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland

Correspondence to: Michael B. Zimmermann1 e-mail:


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