Iron Bisglycinate

On November 14, 2010, in Minerals, by Andrea

So.  Journey Vitamins.  Ferrochel Iron Bisglycinate Chelate.  Been looking for studies NOT done by Albion.

Found a study.  Keep in mind this is not exactly the same as relating to us (but maybe sorta relevant.. will explain).  Here we go.

Ferrus Calcium Citrate is Absorbed Better Than Iron Bisglycinate in Patients with Crohn’s Disease, but Not in Healthy Controls. DIGESTIVE DISEASES AND SCIENCES, Volume 51, Number 5, 942-945, DOI: 10.1007/s10620-005-9036-6


  • 10 healthy patients, 10 patients with Crohn’s disease in remission; testing iron bisglycinate versus ferrous calcium citrate
  • Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that normally affects the intestines, but can attack anywhere along the entire GI tract.  It is marked by chronic inflammation in any area of the GI tract that can lead to crampy abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, bloody stool, persistent watery diarrhea, unintentional weight loss.  Patients with Crohn’s typically have anemia due to low intake, continuous iron loss due to bleeding, and decrease in absorption due to intestinal inflammation of duodenum and upper jejunum.  Because anemia in patients with inflammatory diseases is multifactorial, response to iron treatment is variable.
  • In healthy humans, intestinal transporters regulate absorption of iron.  When there is an ample supply of iron, absorption is blocked, whereas iron deficiency is perceived to enhance iron’s absorption.
  • Iron bisglycinate (IBG) is a formulation aimed at solving the problems of bioavailability and side effects and is safe for use but there have been contradictory results regarding its bioavailibility.   Ashmead describes the pathway of IBG absorption and summarizes several studies, which describe significant increases in the intestinal absorption of iron from iron amino acid chelates compared to inorganic iron salts.  The issue of the absorption of IBG is controversial because it is not clear whether it uses the classic nonheme-iron absorption pathway or a pathway similar to that of heme absorption.
  • Studies with IBG have only tested adolescents and infants with long-term fortification.  It should be noted that this group has a high acid-quotient in the stomach.  No studies have been done with IBD.
  • Crohn’s patients were those with disease of the small intestine, but none involving the duodenum.  Disease was judged to be in remission.
  • Iron studies used to grade results were CBC, transferrin, and iron serum concentrations.
  • Results
    • There were no differences between the two preps (IBC and ferrous calcium citrate) in the healthy patients
    • FCC was absorbed better in all the Crohn’s patients
  • Absorption in healthy volunteers was the same for both formulations; Crohn’s absorbed FCC better.  This might be explained by a more distal point of absorption than the duodenum, where the heme is normally absorbed and by the fact that there is some compromise of the absorptive capacities, even when a patient is in clinical remission

So, what does this mean?

Good question.

It’s important to note this still is not Ferrochel.  That’s a chelated form of IBG.  However, does that change things much?  Dunnow, no studies on it to show us.  Guess we’ll see the guinea pigs and maybe their labs? (Not holding my breath.. hoping?)

As for the further absorption beyond the duodenum, it begs the question as to WHERE exactly DOES it absorb?  And HOW?  Remember that we are missing chunks of our intestine, so this is a VERY. BIG. DEAL. to us to know exactly where it should be absorbing and how our guts will see it afterwards.

IBG, however, has been shown to not work well in screwed-up intestines.  I’m not sure I’d trust it in mine, knowing that much.  But I’m just a bit pickier with that sort of thing I think.

I suppose this gives me even more questions..


Someone DID find a PubMed article!  Thanks goes to them for this:

Comparison of ferrous sulfate and ferrous glycinate chelate for the treatment of iron deficiency anemia in gastrectomized patients.

Nutrition. 2008 Jul-Aug;24(7-8):663-8. Epub 2008 May 21.

Mimura EC, Breganó JW, Dichi JB, Gregório EP, Dichi I.

Cancer Hospital of Londrina, Londrina, Paraná, Brazil.


OBJECTIVES: Postgastrectomy iron deficiency anemia has a variable prevalence and occurs in 20-50% of patients. Food fortification reports examining ferrous glycinate chelate have shown that it can be 2.5-3.4 times more bioavailable than ferrous sulfate, with minimal gastrointestinal symptoms. The present study was designed as a controlled experimental study including 18 gastrectomized patients with iron deficiency anemia to compare the effects of ferrous sulfate and ferrous glycinate chelate in the treatment of anemia and to evaluate the presence of side effects.

METHODS: Patients were divided in two groups: group 1 received ferrous sulfate (200 mg twice a day, corresponding to 80 mg of elemental iron) and group 2 received ferrous glycinate chelate (250 mg/d, corresponding to 50 mg of elemental iron) for 4 mo. Laboratory measurements were performed at baseline and after 2 and 4 mo.

RESULTS: Group 1 showed an apparent recovery in laboratory parameters, with increases in medium corpuscular hemoglobin (P = 0.02), serum iron (P = 0.02), and ferritin (P = 0.04), and a decrease in transferrin (P = 0.002) after 4 mo. Individualized analysis showed that only one patient using ferrous sulfate had anemia at the end of the study in contrast to six patients using ferrous glycinate. In addition, ferritin levels increased above 20 microg/L at the end of the study in seven patients using ferrous sulfate in contrast to one patient using ferrous glycinate.

CONCLUSION: Patients with iron deficiency anemia after gastrectomy treated with ferrous sulfate had better results in hematologic laboratory parameters than those who used ferrous glycinate chelate.

PMID: 18499399 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

A little note from the Iron Disorders Institute about ferrous sulfate in achlorhydriac (low acid) environments:


Typically, the way these compounds are made is that pure iron, usually as iron filings which are dissolved in sulfuric or hydrochloric acid. Once dissolved, the counter ion is added and the pH is slowly adjusted back to neutrality. As this happens the iron is no longer soluble so it binds to the counter-ion and drops out of solution. The slurry is then dehydrated and the remaining dry matter is the iron salt.

The manufacture of these products gives an important clue as to how they work in the body. Once ingested, it is imperative that the stomach contains acid to dissolve the iron salt. If a person is taking antacids or H2 blockers such as cimetidine (Tagamet), their stomach will be “achlorhydric” – no acid in the stomach and the iron salt will not dissolve. As such the person will derive no benefit from the iron supplement.

So let’s put this very clearly:

  1. IBG doesn’t work well with people who have disorders of the intestinal tract.
  2. Ferrous sulfate absorbs better than IBG in patients with gastrectomies.  Remember that RNY, DS, and VSG are all forms of gastrectomies.  Also, keep in mind that these surgeries create a state of achlorhydria.
  3. Ferrous sulfate does not absorb well in achlorhydriac patients.

Therefore it would be safe to assume, given these two studies, that IBG would be a poor choice of iron for RNY, DS, and VSG patients.  Additionally, it would not be good for AGB patients on any sort of H2 or PPI due to the lowered stomach acid created by taking such medication.

Remember, of course, that this is not dealing with the chelated form of the mineral.  We are still waiting to see research on THAT particular animal.. but given this evidence, I would not chance my life (and make no bones about it – for a company touting this to be the end-all vitamin for all of your needs, many will not take anything other than this multivitamin) on a chelated version of IBG given the studies I’ve seen above.

Just.. no.

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1 Response » to “Iron Bisglycinate”

  1. MacMadame says:

    I just saw the BTV interview with Susan Maria where she “explains” how the iron and the calcium don’t compete with each other. It’s because they are coated in protein and so “they don’t touch each other”.

    Excuse me? The reason you don’t take take them at the same time is because they compete for the same receptor sites. It has nothing to do with them “touching” each other.

    So that part seems bogus as well. Unless I am not understanding something about how receptor sites work. Which I don’t think I am.

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