Lactic acid-fermented foods have been shown to increase Fe absorption in human subjects, possibly by lowering pH, activation of phytases, production of organic acids, or by the viable lactic acid bacteria. In this study the effect of a heat-inactivated lactic acid-fermented oat gruel with and without added viable, lyophilized Lactobacillus plantarum 299v on non-haem Fe absorption was investigated. Furthermore, Fe absorption in the distal intestine was determined. In a randomized, double-blinded crossover trial eighteen healthy young women aged 22 (sd 3) years with low Fe status (serum ferritin < 30 μg/l) were served the two test gruels, extrinsically labelled with 59Fe and served with two enterocoated capsules (containing 55Fe(II) and 55Fe(III), respectively) designed to disintegrate in the ileum. The meals were consumed on two consecutive days, e.g. in the order AA followed by BB in a second period. Non-haem Fe absorption was determined from 59Fe whole-body retention and isotope activities in blood samples. The concentrations of Fe, lactate, phytate, and polyphenols, and the pH were similar in the heat-inactivated lactic acid-fermented oat gruels with and without added L. plantarum 299v, and no difference in Fe absorption was observed between the test gruels (1·4 and 1·3 %, respectively). Furthermore, no absorption of Fe in the distal intestine was observed. In conclusion, addition of viable, lyophilized lactobacillus to a heat-inactivated lactic acid-fermented oat gruel does not affect Fe absorption, and no absorption seems to occur in the distal part of the intestine from low Fe bioavailability meals in these women.