Functional Group and Activity

Functional groups in tannic acid are the phenolic -OH groups.
Tannic acid is a specific commercial form of tannin, a type of polyphenol. Its weak acidity (pKa around 6) is due to the numerous phenol groups in the structure.


The phenolic compounds (phenolic monomers, polyphenols, tannins) are considered to interfere with iron absorption by complex formation with iron in the gastro-intestinal lumen, making the iron less available for absorption. Very little is known about the extent to which different types of phenolic compounds of different size and chemical structure inhibit iron absorption


The inhibition of iron absorption by tannic acid was strongly dose-related.  Gallic acid inhibited iron absorption to the same extent as tannic acid, per mol galloyl groups, whereas no inhibition was observed when catechin was added to the test meal. Chlorogenic acid inhibited iron absorption to a lesser extent. Oregano and tea inhibited iron absorption in proportion to their respective content of galloyl groups, whereas the inhibitory effect of spinach was less marked. The inhibiting effect of coffee was explained mainly by its content of galloyl groups, but also by some other factor, probably chlorogenic acid. It is concluded that the content of iron-binding galloyl groups might be a major determinant of the inhibitory effect of phenolic compounds on iron absorption from the diet, whereas the phenolic catechol groups seem to be of minor importance. The results further suggest that the group of condensed tannins do not interfere with iron absorption.

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