• Iron Sulfate, Chelated Iron
• Correction of Iron Deficiency,
The element iron is essential to human life. As part of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein found in red blood cells, iron plays an integral role in nourishing every cell in the body with oxygen. It also functions as a part of myoglobin, which helps muscle cells store oxygen. Without iron, your body could not make ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the body's primary energy source), produce DNA, or carry out many other critical processes.
Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, learning disabilities, impaired immune function, fatigue, and depression. However, you shouldn't take iron supplements unless lab tests show that you are genuinely deficient.
The official US recommendations for daily intake of iron are as follows:
- 0-6 months: 0.27 mg
- 7-12 months: 11 mg
- 1-3 years: 7 mg
- 4-8 years: 10 mg
- 9-13 years: 8 mg
- 14-18 years: 11 mg
- 19 years and older: 8 mg
- 9-13 years: 8 mg
- 14-18 years: 15 mg
- 19-50 years: 18 mg
- 50 years and older: 8 mg
- Pregnant Women :27 mg
- Nursing Women : 9 mg (10 mg if 18 years old or younger)
Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world; worldwide, at least 700 million individuals have iron-deficiency anemia. 1
There are two major forms of iron: heme iron and nonheme iron. Heme iron is bound to the proteins hemoglobin or myoglobin, whereas nonheme iron is an inorganic compound. (In chemistry, "organic" has a very precise meaning that has nothing to do with farming. An organic compound contains carbon atoms. Thus "inorganic iron" is an iron compound containing no carbon.) Heme iron, obtained from red meats and fish, is easily absorbed by the body. Nonheme iron, usually derived from plants, is less easily absorbed.
Rich sources of heme iron include oysters, meat, poultry, and fish. The main sources of nonheme iron are dried fruits, molasses, whole grains, legumes, leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and
Iron absorption may be affected by the following substances: antibiotics in the
The typical short-term therapeutic dosage to correct iron deficiency is 100 to 200 mg daily. Once your body's iron stores reach normal levels, however, this dose should be reduced to the lowest level that can maintain iron balance.
The most obvious use of iron supplements is to treat iron deficiency. Severe iron deficiency causes anemia, which in turn causes many symptoms. Iron deficiency too slight to cause anemia may impair health as well. Several, though not all, double-blind trials suggest that mild iron deficiency might impair
Excessively heavy menstruation (menorrhagia) can certainly cause iron loss, and thereby may warrant iron supplements. Interestingly, a small double-blind trial found evidence that iron supplements might actually help reduce menstrual bleeding in women with menorrhagia who are also iron deficient.
A study of 71
Individuals taking drugs in the
Pregnant women commonly develop iron deficiency anemia. Iron supplements, however, can be hard on the stomach, thereby aggravating
Iron has been suggested as a treatment for
Preliminary studies have linked low iron levels to
One study tested whether supplemental iron could increase rate of saliva flow, but it failed to find benefit.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Iron?
A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 42 non-anemic women with evidence of slightly low iron reserves found that iron supplements significantly enhanced
In addition, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 40 non-anemic elite athletes with mildly low iron stores found that 12 weeks of iron supplementation enhanced aerobic performance.
Benefits with iron supplementation were observed in other double-blind trials as well also involving mild low iron stores.
One small double-blind study found good results using iron supplements to treat heavy menstruation. This study, which was performed in 1964, saw an improvement in 75% of the women who took iron (compared to 32.5% of those who took placebo). Women who began with higher iron levels did not respond to treatment.
Iron supplements commonly cause gastrointestinal upset, but, when taken at recommended dosages, serious adverse consequences are unlikely. However, excessive dosages of iron can be toxic—damaging the intestines and liver, and possibly resulting in death. Iron poisoning in children is a surprisingly common problem, so make sure to keep your iron supplements out of their reach.
Mildly excessive levels of iron may be unhealthy for another reason: it acts as an oxidant (the opposite of an antioxidant), perhaps increasing the risk of cancer and heart disease (although this is controversial). 39, 60
Interactions You Should Know About
If you are taking:
- Antibiotics in the tetracycline
3. Nelson M, Ash R, Mulvhill C, et al. Iron status, diet and cognitive function in British adolescent girls. Poster presented at: The Nutrition Society's Nutrition 2000—Research Themes for the New Millenium; June 26-30; University College, Cork, Ireland.
13. Campbell N, Paddock V, Sundaram R. Alteration of methyldopa absorption, metabolism, and blood pressure control caused by ferrous sulfate and ferrous gluconate. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1988;43:381-386.
29. Nelson M, Ash R, Mulvhill C, et al. Iron status, diet and cognitive function in British adolescent girls. Poster presented at: The Nutrition Society's Nutrition 2000—Research Themes for the New Millennium; June 26-30; University College, Cork, Ireland.
35. Abrams B, Duncan D, Hertz-Picciotto I. A prospective study of dietary intake and acquired immune deficiency syndrome in HIV-seropositive homosexual men. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr . 1993;6:949-958.
51. Brutsaert TD, Hernandez-Cordero S, Rivera J, et al. Iron supplementation improves progressive fatigue resistance during dynamic knee extensor exercise in iron-depleted, nonanemic women. Am J Clin Nutr . 2003;77:441-448.
58. Moriarty-Craige SE, Ramakrishnan U, Neufeld L et al. Multivitamin-mineral supplementation is not as efficacious as is iron supplementation in improving hemoglobin concentrations in nonpregnant anemic women living in Mexico. Am J Clin Nutr . 2004;80:1308-1311.
59. Sankaranarayanan S, Untoro J, Erhardt J et al. Daily iron alone but not in combination with multimicronutrients increases plasma ferritin concentrations in indonesian infants with inflammation. J Nutr. 2004 ;134:1916-1922.
62. Flink H, Tegelberg A, Thorn M et al. Effect of oral iron supplementation on unstimulated salivary flow rate: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Oral Pathol Med. 2006;35:540-547.
65. Sharieff W, Dofonsou J, Zlotkin S. Is cooking food in iron pots an appropriate solution for the control of anaemia in developing countries? A randomised clinical trial in Benin. Public Health Nutr. 2007 Oct 15. [Epub ahead of print]
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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