A Green-Mediterranean Diet, Supplemented with Mankai Duckweed, Preserves Iron-Homeostasis in Humans and Is Efficient in Reversal of Anemia in Rats

Anat Yaskolka Meir, Gal Tsaban, Hila Zelicha, Ehud Rinott, Alon Kaplan, Ilan Youngster, Assaf Rudich, Ilan Shelef, Amir Tirosh, Dov Brikner, Efrat Pupkin, Benjamin Sarusi, Matthias Blüher, Michael Stümvoll, Joachim Thiery, Uta Ceglarek, Meir J. Stampfer, Iris Shai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Decreased dietary meat may deplete iron stores, as plant-derived iron bioavailability is typically limited. Objectives: We explored the effect of a low-meat Mediterranean (green-MED) diet, supplemented with Wolffia globosa duckweed (Mankai: rich in protein and iron) as a food source for humans, on iron status. We further examined the iron bioavailability of Mankai in rats. Methods: Two hundred and ninety-four abdominally obese/dyslipidemic [mean age = 51.1 y; body mass index (kg/m2) = 31.3; 88% men] nonanemic participants were randomly assigned to physical activity (PA), PA + MED diet, or PA + green-MED diet. Both isocaloric MED groups consumed 28 g walnuts/d and the low-meat green-MED group further consumed green tea (800 mL/d) and Mankai (100 g green shake/d). In a complementary animal experiment, after 44 d of an iron deficiency anemia-inducing diet, 50 female rats (age = 3 wk; Sprague Dawley strain) were randomly assigned into: iron-deficient diet (vehicle), or vehicle + iso-iron: ferrous gluconate (FG) 14, Mankai 50, and Mankai 80 versions (1.7 mg · kg-1 · d-1 elemental iron), or FG9.5 and Mankai 50-C version (1.15 mg · kg-1 · d-1 elemental iron). The specific primary aim for both studies was changes in iron homeostasis parameters. Results: After 6 mo of intervention, iron status trajectory did not differ between the PA and PA + MED groups. Hemoglobin modestly increased in the PA + green-MED group (0.23 g/dL) compared with PA (-0.1 g/dL; P < 0.001) and PA + MED (-0.1 g/dL; P < 0.001). Serum iron and serum transferrin saturation increased in the PA + green-MED group compared with the PA group (8.21 μg/dL compared with -5.23 μg/dL and 2.39% compared with -1.15%, respectively; P < 0.05 for both comparisons), as did folic acid (P = 0.011). In rats, hemoglobin decreased from 15.7 to 9.4 mg/dL after 44 d of diet-induced anemia. After depletion treatment, the vehicle-treated group had a further decrease of 1.3 mg/dL, whereas hemoglobin concentrations in both FG and Mankai iso-iron treatments similarly rebounded (FG14: +10.8 mg/dL, Mankai 50: +6.4 mg/dL, Mankai 80: +7.3 mg/dL; FG9.5: +5.1 mg/dL, Mankai 50-C: +7.1 mg/dL; P < 0.05 for all vs. the vehicle group). Conclusions: In humans, a green-MED low-meat diet does not impair iron homeostasis. In rats, iron derived from Mankai (a green-plant protein source) is bioavailable and efficient in reversal of anemia. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT03020186.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1004-1011
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • Mediterranean diet
  • iron homeostasis parameters
  • plant iron sources
  • vegetarian diet
  • weight loss

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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