Fortifying Dairy with Ferrochel®
Ferrochel® Ferrous Bisglycinate Chelate
Iron is an essential mineral and its primary role is to serve as a major component of hemoglobin and myoglobin – proteins found in red blood cells and muscle tissue that help transport and deliver oxygen. Iron also plays important roles in:
- Growth & development during childhood and adolescence
- Supporting exercise performance and muscle metabolism
- Maintaining healthy immune function
Despite these incredibly important roles, inadequate intakes and deficiency of iron are common concerns for nearly all ages in the United States. The CDC states that nearly 7% of children aged 1-5y in the United States are estimated to have iron deficiency. On average, adult women (age 19y+) consume ~25% less iron per day than men in their diets, with nearly 20% of adult women (age 19-50y) not getting enough iron from foods and beverages alone. Furthermore, it is estimated that there are over 6 million adult women in the United States with iron deficiency – which is higher than the populations of Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, and Montana…combined. Even among older adults, the concern is still high, as the prevalence of anemia among Americans over age 65y is more than 10%, with nutritional deficiencies being thought to be responsible for ~1/3 of cases. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans lists Iron as a “Nutrient of Public Health Concern” specifically for infants 6-11 months, adolescent females aged 14-18y, and women who are pregnant.
How can our solutions help?
Fortunately, we have ways to help consumers get more iron in their diets: food fortification and supplementation are effective tools to increase nutrient intake. However, fortification can be challenging as formulators often face a balancing act between application performance and bioavailability, particularly in beverages where maintaining the solubility of fortified minerals can be difficult. The World Health Organization (WHO)’s guidance on food fortification with micronutrients is that when choosing the right iron product to fortify a food or beverage, the main considerations include minimizing sensory changes, interactions with other nutritional components of foods, and bioavailability. Very few iron forms check all these boxes.
Enter the mineral chelate, which offers a unique solution to these challenges…
Mineral chelates are where a mineral such as iron is bound to the amino acid glycine, allowing for multiple benefits. Balchem offers a range of mineral chelates from our Albion Minerals portfolio, including Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Zinc, and more.
Balchem’s Ferrochel® is our flagship Iron Bisglycinate Chelate product which has demonstrated these benefits across multiple scientific studies. It has:
- excellent performance in applications
- limited interactions with other nutritional components
- proven bioavailability
Unlike many conventional mineral forms such as calcium carbonate or iron sulfate, mineral chelates are well known for their solubility in solution. The approximate solubility of Calcium Bisglycinate, for example, measures orders of magnitude higher than commonly used calcium salts such as calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Iron forms such as iron sulfate and iron fumarate, show reduced solubility at pH values seen in beverages such as fluid milk (~pH 6). Unlike these forms, however, Ferrochel remains fully soluble across a broad pH range making it an ideal choice for beverage fortification, especially for dairy applications. And, if you’re looking to fortify a food product, fortification with Iron Bisglycinate has been shown to be an effective way to improve iron nutrition without compromising the organoleptic properties of foods.
Nutrition can be more complex than simply consuming additional nutrients in your diet. The foods we eat contain many components, some of which may interfere with mineral absorption. So-called Anti-Nutrients include compounds like phytic acids and oxylates, and are commonly found in plant-based foods such as nuts, grains, and seeds. Phytates in particular can have a significant impact on iron absorption – just 10 mg of phytate can decrease iron absorption by 60% in human trials. Phytates can have a negative impact on commonly used sources of iron as well, such as iron sulfate. Even desirable components of foods can function as an anti-nutrient: calcium in milk has been shown to reduce iron absorption. This interference is thought to be one reason why clinical testing shows that just ~3-5% of iron in milk fortified with iron sulfate is absorbed in human subjects.
Why Ferrochel® Ferrous Bisglycinate Chelate?
- The unique structure of Ferrochel is thought to protect the chelated iron and helps to reduce the interference of these Anti-Nutrients, such as phytates and more.
- Clinical testing shows that fortification with Ferrochel allows for greater iron absorption than iron sulfate in the presence of phytates.
- This effect is not limited to food only: examining iron bioavailability from Ferrochel fortified milk shows that roughly 11% of the iron was absorbed – up to 2.5x higher than what was previously observed in other studies with iron sulfate.
The benefits of Iron Bisglycinate are recognized by leading experts. The WHO states that Iron Bisglycinate Chelate is 2-3x better absorbed than iron sulfate (the so-called “gold standard”), particularly in the presence of Anti-Nutrients such as phytates. Because Iron Bisglycinate meets the criteria set forth by the WHO – excellent performance in applications, high bioavailability, and resistance to interference from Anti-Nutrients – Iron Bisglycinate is listed by the WHO as a suggested iron fortificant for fluid milk, juice, and soft drink applications.
With all these benefits, does Iron Bisglycinate help to improve nutrition and public health?
A great case study performed in Costa Rica demonstrated that iron deficiency and anemia were commonplace. Between 1999-2001, national fortification standards were revised to mandate that maize flour, liquid, and powdered milk were to be fortified with Iron Bisglycinate, and the results were impressive. Comparing the prevalence of iron nutrition-related complications among children aged 1-7y from before and after the updates to the fortification policy.
- The prevalence of anemia declined by nearly 80%
- The prevalence of iron deficiency anemia declined by nearly 75%
- The prevalence of iron deficiency anemia was virtually eradicated (see Figure).
Milk fortified with Iron Bisglycinate was found to be the largest contributor of fortified iron among these children. Thus, demonstrating the impact that fortifying dairy products with Iron Bisglycinate can have on public health.
Partner with us!
If you’re looking to find an option to help deliver important essential nutrition benefits in a food or beverage application (especially dairy!), let Balchem help you. As the leader in Mineral Nutrition, Balchem can help you with innovative and effective nutritional ingredients. Let us help you maintain the health of your consumer. We also offer technical support and market insights to help your product be successful in the market.
Contact us and let us help bring some innovative solutions to the market that help benefit the health of millions of consumers!