The level of assimilation of dietary iron is believed to have an important influence on iron status. To examine the effect of enhancing the availability of dietary iron on iron balance, 17 adult volunteer subjects were given 2 g of ascorbic acid daily with meals for 16 weeks. Serum ferritin levels before and after the study averaged 46 and 43 micrograms/L, respectively, indicating a negligible effect on iron stores. When vitamin C supplementation was continued for an additional 20 months in five iron-replete and four iron-deficient subjects, serum ferritin determinations again failed to indicate any significant effect of the vitamin C on iron reserves. These findings were not explained by intestinal adaptation to the enhancing effect of the vitamin, because radioisotopic measurements of nonheme iron absorption showed no reduction in the enhancing effect of 1 g of ascorbic acid after four months of megadoses of vitamin C. It is concluded that altering the availability of nonheme dietary iron has little effect on iron status when the diet contains substantial amounts of meat.

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