Home > Research indicates pork delivers better iron absorption and weight loss benefits

Research indicates pork delivers better iron absorption and weight loss benefits

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article image Samir Samman

Associate Professor Samir Samman is a Pork CRC Project Leader in Subprogram 3B ‘Inherent properties of Australian pork to enhance consumer health’.

Samir’s research centres on the role played by biomarkers in informing nutritional status and disease risk factors in humans. His research methodologies include recruitment of human volunteers, dietary assessment techniques, intervention involving foods and/or supplements, project management, collection of blood samples and laboratory analyses of established or novel biomarkers.

Iron studies

Samir’s research on iron aims to determine the role of meat consumption in managing iron deficiency in young women. His findings concluded that iron status was largely determined by personal food selection, with avoiders of flesh foods exhibiting a lower biochemical status of iron, zinc, selenium and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids than non-avoiders of meat and poultry. Avoidance of meat appeared to be driven by the misconception that this dietary component was responsible for weight gain.

In ‘single-meal experiments’ conducted in collaboration with colleagues at the Royal Agricultural and Veterinary University in Copenhagen, where Samir was on sabbatical leave, he showed that phytochemical extracts rich in antioxidant activity, such as rosemarin (extracted from rosemary) and catechin (from tea leaves), decrease the absorption of iron. While these natural antioxidants are effective in food preservation, they are not necessarily favourable in their effects on iron absorption.

Healthy pork

In a dietary intervention trial with pork meat (funded by Pork CRC) Samir and his colleagues demonstrated improvement of iron status compared to a low dose iron supplement. In contrast to iron supplementation, pork meat consumption enhanced markers of vitamins B12 and B6 and some measures of physical wellbeing.

In a recent project he demonstrated that consuming a meal that contains pork or chicken produces a differential profile of amino acids in the post-prandial state. Meals containing pork result in higher levels of the amino acid histidine with good evidence that histidine contributes to an improved metabolic profile and may be responsible partly for the health benefits of pork, especially for weight loss.

Food production

Samir’s keen interest in agricultural methods stems from a long term collaboration with colleagues at Cornell University as part of the Food Systems Program. He examined the effect of organic agricultural methods on nutrient composition and based on analysis of a range of commodities, reported modest differences in the nutrient composition of organic and conventional foods.


The Chair and Head of Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Otago in Dunedin, Samir relocated to New Zealand to take up the appointment in 2014.

A PhD in nutritional science from the University of Sydney, Samir moved to Canada for post-doctoral training as a Canadian Heart Foundation Fellow at the University of Western Ontario, before returning to a Merck-Clinical Research Fellowship at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. He was soon appointed Associate Professor in Human Nutrition, School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences at University of Sydney.

Samir’s broad interest in micronutrients has seen him become involved in a range of national and international committees. He currently chairs the Australian and New Zealand joint committee responsible for setting the recommended dietary intakes and has previously served on US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) committees that considered nutrient biomarkers. Samir was recently appointed President-Elect of the Nutrition Society of Australia.

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