Ferritin is the main intracellular iron storage protein. The release of iron from ferritin in the presence of a number of phenolic based compounds of nutritional significance was studied at physiological pH. The release of iron was measured by monitoring the formation of the iron(II)-ferrozine complex. The kinetics of this process were studied in Hepes buffer (pH 7.00), at 37 degreesC, The order of ability to remove iron from ferritin is epigallocatechin>gallic acid methyl ester-sinapic acid>ferulic acid. The presence of the oxyradical scavenger urea resulted in a slight inhibition in the release of iron from ferritin by both gallic acid methyl ester and epigallocatechin. The ability of each reagent to release iron is interpreted on the basis of their ability to (a) reduce the bound iron and (b) complex the iron with the oxidised form of the phenol, thus mobilising it from the protein. These studies indicate that some phenolic based compounds that have been epidemiologically associated with a negative effect on iron absorption in man, can individually mobilise and release iron from ferritin under suitable conditions. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.