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Probiotic Strain Helps Pregnant Women Maintain Healthy Iron Levels

Iron deficiency is common in women of childbearing age and is a global health problem. Iron deficiency-related anemia leads to an increased risk of premature birth, underweight newborns, and neonatal death.

A new study published in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica found that taking a particular probiotic supplement improves iron levels in healthy pregnant women.

Probiotic and Iron Status in Healthy Women

Probiotics are microorganisms believed to provide health benefits when consumed, usually by improving or restoring gut health. Consumption of probiotics is generally considered safe, but undesirable side effects may occur on rare occasions because of host-microorganism interactions.

In the study, a group of researchers from Lund University, in collaboration with the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, evaluated the effect of a probiotic strain preparation containing Lactiplantibacillus Plantarum 299v (Lp299v, 1010 colony forming units), 4.2 mg iron, 12 mg ascorbic acid, and 30 µg folic acid (Lp) on iron status in healthy, non‐anemic, pregnant Swedish women (Axling et al. 2021).

In the investigation, the researchers recruited 326 healthy women at antenatal midwife clinics between September 2016 and March 2018. The women were at 18–42 years, serum ferritin was  ≥20 µg/L, and had a body mass index between 18 and 30 kg/m2 at the baseline visit.

The participants were randomized to receive a placebo or the probiotic strain Lactiplantibacillus Plantarum 299v (Lp299v) administered with a low dose of iron, folic acid, and ascorbic acid. They took the placebo or the combination product twice daily during pregnancy.

They were also advised not to take any other probiotic products or to consume any other supplement containing iron during the study unless the investigator recommended iron therapy.

Blood samples were collected and analyzed for serum ferritin, hemoglobin, soluble transferrin receptor, total iron-binding capacity, plasma iron, transferrin saturation, mean corpuscular volume, and C‐reactive protein. All analyses were conducted at a certified local hospital laboratory using standardized and validated methods.


The study found that the prevalence of anemia was significantly lower in the Lp group than in the placebo group at week 28 (14% vs 26%) and at week 35 (7.4% vs 21%). Also, in the Lp group prevalence of iron deficiency anemia was significantly lower than the placebo group. What’s more, women taking the study product until delivery showed significantly higher ferritin levels at the follow‐up visit compared with the placebo group (49.4 vs 40.2 µg/L).

Iron deficiency in women at childbearing age is a common health problem (Kassebaum 2016). In a report in 2015, World Health Organization revealed that about 40% of pregnant women suffer anemia (WHO 2015). In a pregnant woman, iron deficiency can lead to several complications for the mother and her child (Rahman et al. 2016).

Author’s Opinion

In a press release (Wiley 2021), the lead author of the study, Ulrika Axling, Ph.D., of Probi AB, stated, “We have previously shown that the Lp299v strain together with a low dose of iron increases iron absorption. With this study, we proved that this translates into an improved iron status in pregnant women.”

The author further added, “Iron deficiency is especially common during pregnancy, and high-dose iron supplements are often recommended. Since these typically come with side effects such as stomach pain and constipation, there is a need for new solutions. This probiotic product could offer a novel and safe approach for improving iron status during pregnancy.”

Related Publications

Axling, U., G. Onning, et al. (2021). “The effect of Lactiplantibacillus plantarum 299v together with a low dose of iron on iron status in healthy pregnant women: A randomized clinical trial.” Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand n/a(n/a). 10.1111/aogs.14153.
Kassebaum, N. J. (2016). “The Global Burden of Anemia.” Hematology/Oncology Clinics of North America 30(2): 247-308.
Rahman, M. M., S. K. Abe, et al. (2016). “Maternal anemia and risk of adverse birth and health outcomes in low- and middle-income countries: systematic review and meta-analysis1,2.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 103(2): 495-504. 10.3945/ajcn.115.107896.  
WHO (2015). The global prevalence of anemia in 2011. 2015.
Wiley. (2021). “Probiotic Strain Helps Pregnant Women Maintain Healthy Iron Levels.”   Retrieved 4/22/2021, 2021.



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