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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Rare earth elements as nonabsorbable fecal markers in studies of iron absorption.

The use of rare earth elements as nonabsorbable fecal markers for studies of iron absorption from sources labeled extrinsically with stable isotopes was evaluated. On 3 successive days 13 healthy fasting adults were given different stable isotopes of iron with samarium, ytterbium, or dysprosium. On day 1, three meals were given with 57Fe (1 mg per meal) plus samarium (0.33 mg per meal); on day 2, identical meals (taken with a calcium supplement to reduce iron bioavailability) were given with equivalent amounts of 58Fe-labeled iron and ytterbium; on day 3, a well-absorbed reference dose of 54Fe (3 mg) was given with 1 mg Dy. A complete fecal collection was carried out for 5-9 d and each stool was analyzed for rare earth elements by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry and iron isotopes by thermal ionization quadrupole mass spectrometry. Mean recovery of rare earth elements was 101%, indicating that they are totally unabsorbed. The excretory pattern of the iron isotopes and the rare earth elements was very similar; the correlation coefficients between samarium and 57Fe, ytterbium and 58Fe, and dysprosium and 54Fe were 0.992, 0.989, and 0.988, respectively (P < 0.001). Iron absorption was calculated as the difference between isotope dose and fecal excretion. Mean (+/-SEM) iron absorption was 16.7 +/- 2.4%, 4.3 +/- 1.6%, and 40.3 +/- 3.1% on days 1-3, respectively. Predicted values estimated from the first 4 d of pooled feces, using the rare earth element recovery data to produce corrected figures for unabsorbed isotope, were in close agreement: 19.1 +/- 2.1%, 4.6 +/- 1.7%, and 40.8 +/- 3.1%, respectively (P < 0.001). With the diet of medium iron bioavailability and with the highly bioavailable reference dose it was possible to predict iron absorption accurately from only one or two stools, provided that they were sufficiently enriched with isotope and a rare earth element.[1]


  1. Rare earth elements as nonabsorbable fecal markers in studies of iron absorption. Fairweather-Tait, S.J., Minihane, A.M., Eagles, J., Owen, L., Crews, H.M. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. (1997) [Pubmed]
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