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News - Garlic and onion may boost mineral absorption

By Holly Taylor BSc(Hons) DipCNM MBANT NTCC

A new study from India suggests that compounds in both garlic and onion may increase the bioavailability of iron and zinc from cereal foods. Deficiencies of zinc or iron are reported to affect around a third of the world’s population. This is particularly true of communities that have a plant-based diet, as the availability of these two micronutrients is, on the whole, low in plant foods.

In an attempt to assess the uptake of these minerals from plant sources, researchers used a model of the gastrointestinal tract to simulate passage through a human gut. Two cereals (rice and sorghum) and two pulses (chickpea and green gram) were used in their raw and cooked forms, and in the presence of two levels of garlic (0.25g and 0.5g per 10g of grain) and onion (1.5g and 3g per 10g of grain).

The results indicated that iron uptakes from both cooked and raw cereals were significantly increased in the presence of both garlic and onion. In the case of both the cereals, increases of 9.4% to 65.9% were seen. For the pulses, 9.9% to 73.3% increases were recorded. Improvements in the bioaccessibility of zinc were also observed for both spices, with increases in cereals ranging from 10.4% to 159.4%, and in pulses from 9.8% to 49.8%. The beneficial effects are thought to stem from the high sulphur content of onion and garlic, as previous studies have indicated that sulphur amino acids can boost iron and zinc status in laboratory animals. 

Article References

S Gautam et al. (2001) Higher Bioaccessibility of Iron and Zinc from Food Grains in the Presence of Garlic and Onion. J Agric Food Chem. [Epub ahead of print.]

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