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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Ithaca, New York » Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture & Health » Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #368941

Research Project: Bioavailability of Iron, Zinc and Select Phytochemicals for Improved Health (Bridging Project)

Location: Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research

Title: The germ fraction inhibits iron bioavailability of maize: identification of an approach to enhance maize nutritional quality via processing and breeding

Author
item Glahn, Raymond
item Tako, Elad
item GORE, MICHAEL - Cornell University - New York

Submitted to: Nutrients
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/10/2019
Publication Date: 4/12/2019
Citation: Glahn, R.P., Tako, E.N., Gore, M.A. 2019. The germ fraction inhibits iron bioavailability of maize: identification of an approach to enhance maize nutritional quality via processing and breeding. Nutrients. 11(4):833. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11040833.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11040833

Interpretive Summary: mproving the nutritional quality of Fe in maize (ie. corn) represents a global strategy to reduce iron deficiency anemia via agriculture. Therefore, the present study measured iron content and bioavailability (ie. absorbability) via an established cell culture model to characterize Fe quality in the main parts of the maize kernel. Comparisons of six different varieties of maize demonstrated that the germ fraction is a strong inhibitory component of Fe bioavailability. The germ fraction can contain 27–54% of the total kernel Fe, which is poorly available. In the absence of the germ, Fe in the non-germ components can be highly bioavailable. More specifically, increasing Fe concentration in the non-germ fraction resulted in more bioavailable Fe. Comparison of commercial wet-milled fractions of a commercial maize variety and degerminated corn meal products also demonstrated the inhibitory effect of the germ fraction on Fe bioavailability. When compared to beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) containing approximately five times the concentration of Fe, degerminated maize provided more absorbable Fe, indicating that significantly higher percentage of the iron was absorbed. Overall, the results indicate that degerminated maize may be a better source of Fe than whole maize and some other crops. Increased non-germ Fe density with a weaker inhibitory effect of the germ fraction are desirable qualities to identify and breed for in maize.

Technical Abstract: Improving the nutritional quality of Fe in maize (Zea mays) represents a biofortification strategy to alleviate iron deficiency anemia. Therefore, the present study measured iron content and bioavailability via an established bioassay to characterize Fe quality in parts of the maize kernel. Comparisons of six different varieties of maize demonstrated that the germ fraction is a strong inhibitory component of Fe bioavailability. The germ fraction can contain 27–54% of the total kernel Fe, which is poorly available. In the absence of the germ, Fe in the non-germ components can be highly bioavailable. More specifically, increasing Fe concentration in the non-germ fraction resulted in more bioavailable Fe. Comparison of wet-milled fractions of a commercial maize variety and degerminated corn meal products also demonstrated the inhibitory effect of the germ fraction on Fe bioavailability. When compared to beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) containing approximately five times the concentration of Fe, degerminated maize provided more absorbable Fe, indicating substantially higher fractional bioavailability. Overall, the results indicate that degerminated maize may be a better source of Fe than whole maize and some other crops. Increased non-germ Fe density with a weaker inhibitory effect of the germ fraction are desirable qualities to identify and breed for in maize.