The effect of iron fortification on the fatty acid composition of plasma and erythrocyte membranes in primary school children with and without iron-deficiency

Smuts, C. M. ; Tichelaar, H. Y. ; Van Jaarsveld, P. J. ; Badenhorst, C. J. ; Kruger, M. ; Laubscher, R. ; Mansvelt, E. P. G. ; Benade, A. J. S. (1994)


An intervention study was designed to evaluate the fatty acid (FA) status of children aged 6-11 years before and after iron fortification. Iron deficient (ID) and matched controls without ID (n = 30) were selected. All children received soup (160 mL) fortified with 20 mg iron and 100 mg vitamin C for 15 weeks on school days. Measurements before and after intervention included dietary intake, haematological and iron status and FA composition of plasma and erythrocyte membranes (EMBs). The prevalence of low plasma ferritin concentration and transferrin saturation decreased in the ID children by 40% and 56%, respectively, with intervention. Plasma FAs reflected dietary FA intake. In comparison with controls, the ID group presented with increased percentage total saturated FAs (SFAs; p = 0.0002) in their EMB phosphatidylcholine (PC) and reduced percentage total polyunsaturated FAs (PUFAs; p = 0.0037) before intervention. Lower total n-3 FAs (p = 0.0070) including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; p = 0.0034), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA; p = 0.0048) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; p = 0.0058) were observed in the ID group. The EMB phosphatidylethanolamine (PEA) of the ID children presented with lower percentages of α-linolenic acid (ALA; p = 0.0001), EPA (p = 0.0051) and DHA (p = 0.0084) compared to controls before intervention. Iron intervention was associated with an increase (p < 0.05) in the percentage of n-3 FAs in the EMB-PC and -PEA of the ID group to percentages comparable to that in the control group. It appears that iron status can influence FA metabolism of specific n-3 FAs in the EMBs of young children.

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