Iron deficiency: tea during the meal decreases iron absorption

Taking the tea at least one hour after a meal can benefit from better iron absorption, as shown in this randomized clinical study.

Iron deficiency is common worldwide, including in our countries, and it particularly affects women of childbearing age and children. The reduction or elimination of meat, which is becoming more and more frequent, makes the coverage of iron needs even more precarious.

Indeed, heme iron from animal products is much better absorbed than mineral iron from plants. In addition, tea is known to contain polyphenols which are capable of forming insoluble complexes with iron, thus reducing its intestinal absorption. This explains why the iron in breakfast cereals is partly lost if tea is consumed simultaneously…

Drink water or tea at the table

This study wanted to see to what extent taking tea at the same time or one hour after breakfast significantly modifies the rate of iron absorption. To do this, 12 women with an average age of 24.8 ate, on three different occasions, a somewhat special porridge. Added to 4 mg of marked iron (Fe57) in the form of iron sulphate, this porridge was accompanied by water, black tea during the meal or the same tea drunk 1 hour after the meal.

Drink tea 1 hour after the last meal

The results show that compared to the meal taken with water, that taken with tea leads to a reduction in iron absorption of 37.2%, which demonstrates the inhibitory effect of tea. On the other hand, when the tea is taken 1 hour after the meal, this inhibitory effect is reduced by about 50%, with a reduction in the absorption of iron, which is only 18.1%, compared to the meal taken with water. This can have concrete repercussions in the advice given to people at risk of iron deficiency. And which also reinforces the concept of “tea time”, namely taking tea outside the main meals!

Ahmad Fuzi SF et al. A 1-h time interval between a meal containing iron and consumption of tea attenuates the inhibitory effects on iron absorption: a controlled trial in a cohort of healthy UK women using a stable iron isotope. Am J Clin Nutr; 106(6): 1413-1421.

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