You body uses iron to produce haemoglobin, which is a part of the red blood cells that carries oxygen around your body. It is also necessary for your muscles metabolism, physical growth, neurological development and for your cells to function (1).
Iron is a mineral that’s naturally present in many different foods, available as supplements and is also added to some food products as well.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 30% of the world’s population, approximately 2 billion people, are anaemic due to iron deficiency (2).
Iron deficiency is common amongst young children, women of reproductive age and pregnant women. It’s often a result of a poor diet, blood loss, malabsorptive disorders and is also usually connected with other nutrient deficiencies (3).
Having iron deficiencies may display some of the following symptoms (4):
- Poor mental performance
- Cold intolerance
- Fatigue, weakness, dizziness
- Exercise-associated dyspnea
- Heart palpitations
- Restless leg syndrome
The daily recommended intakes of iron for an adult varies between the following recommendations (5):
- Male, 8mg
- Female, 18mg
- Pregnancy, 27mg
- Lactation, 9mg
The increased amounts of iron intake for women is due the blood loss from menstruation and for the increased needs during pregnancy (6).
You should always consult with your health practitioner before supplementing on iron and/or making drastic changes to your diet. Excessive iron intake can lead to gastric upset, constipation, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, faintness and overdosing can be very serious (7).
Dietary iron is found in two main forms - heme and nonheme. Heme iron has a higher bioavailability than nonheme and is found in meat, seafood and poultry and nonheme is generally from plants and iron-fortified foods (8).
In general, the richest sources of iron is in lean meat and seafood (9). Below you can see a table of selected food sources of iron according to NIH:
If you’re not getting the recommended amounts of iron, then it’s also possible to get it through dietary supplements. Since the rates of iron recommendations vary so much (also between race and sociodemographic factors), there is a risk of obtaining excess iron (10). You should always contact your GP before supplementing iron, or know your own values and recommendations.
Iron is available in many dietary supplements such as multivitamin/multimineral supplements with iron and iron-only supplements if needed.
The best way to measure the precise values of iron is through a blood test.
Both of our blood panels (Essential and Premium) is testing the iron levels, so you can see if your daily life gives you the right amounts of iron for your specific needs!
Read more about our different blood panels here.
1 National Institue of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Iron - Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, 2019.
2 World Health Organization. Conclusions and recommendations of the WHO consultation on prevention and control of iron deficiency in infants and young children in malaria-endemic areas. Food Nutr Bull 28: S621–S627, 2007.
3 Aggett PJ. Iron. In: Erdman JW, Macdonald IA, Zeisel SH, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. 10th ed. Washington, DC: Wiley-Blackwell; 2012:506-20.
4 Miller, J.L. Iron Deficiency Anemia: A Common and Curable Disease: US National Library of Medicine National institutes of Health, 2013
5 National Institue of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Iron - Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, 2019.
6 Scholl TO. Maternal iron status: relation to fetal growth, length of gestation, and iron endowment of the neonate. Nutr Rev 2011;69 Suppl 1:S23-9. 2011
7 Manoguerra AS, Erdman AR, Booze LL, Christianson G, Wax PM, Scharman EJ, et al. Iron ingestion: an evidence-based consensus guideline for out-of-hospital management. Clin Toxicol (Phila) 2005
8 Aggett PJ. Iron. In: Erdman JW, Macdonald IA, Zeisel SH, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. 10th ed. Washington, DC: Wiley-Blackwell; 2012
9 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015.
10 Bacon BR, Adams PC, Kowdley KV, Powell LW, Tavill AS. Diagnosis and management of hemochromatosis: 2011 practice guideline by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. Hepatology 2011
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