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Ferrous Bisglycinate Supplementation in Pregnancy

Many consumers are reluctant to take iron supplements during pregnancy because they often cause side effects on the digestive system, which can be a major challenge to patient compliance and reduce efficacy. A meta-analysis confirms that iron bisglycinate has higher efficacy and lower risk of side effects in pregnant women compared to other iron salts.

A new systematic review and meta-analysis published in Nutrition Reviews[1] has concluded that ferrous bisglycinate supplementation in pregnant women provides significantly higher efficacy at raising hemoglobin status, and results in a 64% lower rate of gastrointestinal adverse events[2] compared to other iron salts.[3]

Conducted by a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, the research sought to evaluate the effects of ferrous bisglycinate supplementation compared to other iron salts* on iron status and gastrointestinal (GI) adverse events. 1 Multiple chelated iron products were used in this research, including Albion® Minerals’ Ferrochel®. The findings present supplement manufacturers with an exciting opportunity to innovate with high efficacy iron forms.

Iron deficiency: a global concern

Iron deficiency is a worldwide issue and is estimated to effect over 40% women of childbearing age in certain countries.[4] However, many consumers are reluctant to take iron supplements during pregnancy as they often cause side-effects to the digestive system, which can pose a significant challenge in patient compliance and decrease efficacy. The data in this latest study compared rates of GI adverse events observed in trials of pregnant women, showing that ferrous bisglycinate supplementation was 64% less likely to result in GI adverse events compared to other iron salts.

The meta-analysis included 17 different randomized controlled trials, focusing on over 1,100 children and pregnant women. The results demonstrated that ferrous bisglycinate supplementation led to greater improvements in haemoglobin status among pregnant women – a commonly measured biomarker of anemia and iron status. The research also reported ferrous bisglycinate supplementation led to greater changes in ferritin, another iron status biomarker, however this difference did not achieve statistical significance. However, this was partially attributed to differences in reporting adjustments between trials. While analysing the available data related to the children group, these differences failed to reach statistical significance, likely due to the relatively small number of clinical trials included and differences in trial design (n=4).

Following this initial study, Balchem has now commissioned a new clinical trial on Ferrochel® in pregnant women with the same research team, which aims to begin recruitment in Fall 2023. This research aims to provide further insights into the optimal forms of iron to be used across various ages and stages of life.

“These findings are important as they confirm that not all oral iron supplements should be considered as equal. The ideal form of iron in prenatal multiple micronutrients should be highly bioavailable and have a low risk of gastrointestinal side effects in order to optimize adherence and reduce the risk of iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy. Ultimately, our findings show promise for ferrous bisglycinate as a superior form of supplemental iron compared to iron salts”, adds Crystal Karakochuk, Assistant Professor in Human Nutrition in the Department of Food, Nutrition, and Health at University of British Columbia, and the lead researcher on the study.

“We’re pleased to see that this latest study provides further evidence to show the enhanced efficacy and tolerability that ferrous bisglycinate, such as Ferrochel®, is commonly associated with”, comments Jonathan Bortz, MD, Vice President Nutrition Science at Balchem. “For decades now, we have been investigating the role iron can play in supporting healthy pregnancies and we are confident that additional data will provide additional proof of the superiority of ferrous bisglycinate over other iron salts.”

Ferrochel® is the flagship product within Balchem’s Albion® Minerals portfolio, with decades of research supporting its use. A unique, fully chelated iron product formed by binding iron to two organic glycine molecules, its small molecular size allows it to remain intact throughout the GI tract for optimal absorption. This more bioavailable form of iron is essential for gestating mothers and growing children.

* “Other iron salts” = Ferrous Sulfate, Ferrous Fumarate, Carbonyl Iron, Iron Multi-Amino Acid Chelate, Ferrous Ascorbate, Sodium Feredetate, Ferrous Glycine Sulfate, and Polymaltose Iron.

[1] Fischer JAJ, et al., Nutr Rev 2023; 81(8): 904-920.

[2] GI adverse events defined as Heartburn, Nausea, Constipation, Diarrhea, Abdominal Pain

[3] Other iron salts defined as Ferrous Sulfate, Ferrous Fumarate, Carbonyl Iron, Iron Multi-Amino Acid Chelate, Ferrous Ascorbate, Sodium Feredetate, Ferrous Glycine Sulfate, and Polymaltose Iron

[4] Stevens GA, et al., Lancet Glob Health 2022; 10: e1590-99.

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