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Nutrient- nutrient interaction

This question was posted the Infant and young child feeding interventions forum area and has 2 replies.

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Nutritionist/ M40Re Analytics

Normal user

26 Sep 2022, 18:17

Hello everyone, there is this issue on nutrient- nutrient interaction while certain food products are mixed that is of concern, For example while making finger millet porridge for under five and adding milk to the porridge while cooking to make it nutrient dense,

First point of view is; milk shouldn't be added to finger millet porridge because calcium and iron will bind ( hence milk should be consumed separately later on instead of mixing it in finger millet porridge)

While another point of view is ; you can mix milk in finger millet porridge as long as the child has another alternative source of calcium which he/she can feed on.

Anyone with an input or any factual information on this can share, I will highly appreciate.

Philip James

Senior Technical Associate, ENN

Frequent user

17 Oct 2022, 14:39

Hello, I can recommend a nice review that goes into iron, including nutrient-nutrient interactions, found here. In summary, we probably need to be more concerned when we're thinking about calcium coming from supplements (high doses) rather than the naturally occuring concentrations in dietary sources. Whilst calcium from food and drink does inhibit iron absorption in theory (though the mechanisms are still unclear), there is very mixed evidence out there. Some studies tried separating out iron- and calcium- sources of food to consume at different times of the day, but this didn't seem to do anything (i.e. iron absorption stayed the same whether the food items were consumed together or separately).

What seems to be a more evidence-based solution is to include a source of Vitamin-C with the meal if possible, as this will overcome any small effects of the iron absorption inhibiton caused by the calcium. So where resources allow, some fresh food juice, some green leafy veg etc....these food-based sources of vitamin C will help the iron from plant-based sources be absorbed despite the presence of calcium in the meal.

I think we also need to be careful of how much information we expect mothers to take on and implement - if it's easier to prepare the porridge with milk (and if the child prefers it - another key consideration!) then I'd say the evidence base is not strong enough to insist on having the milk at a different time.

In summary, the literature is very mixed on this issue (see another recent review here). In areas of high iron-deficiency anaemia maybe we'd want to look at other strategies to improve iron intake. 


Nutritionist/ M40Re Analytics

Normal user

17 Oct 2022, 17:41

@ Philip James, Thank you for the response and  informative articles.

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