Engineered Nanoparticles Reported to Affect Iron Absorption

February 27, 2012

By Ricardo Carvajal

Researchers report that in vitro and in vivo experiments conducted with polystyrene nanoparticles indicate that nanoparticle exposure can disrupt iron transport in the gut, and may possibly disrupt absorption of other minerals, as well as vitamins.  The in vivo experiments, which were conducted in chickens, further indicate that chronic exposure can result in remodeling of intestinal villi to increase surface area so as to increase absorption, thereby compensating for the disruption in nutrient transport.   Chickens were chosen for the experiments in part because of similarities between their gastrointestinal tract and that of humans. 

The significance of these findings may be difficult to assess until additional studies on the effects of nanoparticle exposure on the gut have been conducted.  Nonetheless, they should be of interest to food ingredient developers, given the researchers’ observation that dietary particles in certain food additives have been thought to potentially have adverse health effects.   The findings should also be of interest to drug developers, given the utility of nanoparticle carriers for drug delivery.