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Do You Need an Iron Supplement?

By , Managing Editor
Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Throughout our lives, our nutritional needs change, which means paying greater attention to the amount of vitamins and minerals we're consuming. One such nutrient to pay greater attention to is iron -- while the dose is never very high, iron's role in the body is widespread.

Iron made news this week when the results of a study of low birth weight infants in Sweden was released. Researchers found giving iron supplements to otherwise healthy infants between 4 1/2 and 5 lbs reduced the likelihood of developing behavioral problems later in life. The infants received either 1 mg or 2 mg of iron or a placebo from the age of six weeks to six months old and were next examined at 3 1/2 years of age.

While more studies are needed on this topic, it does remind us of the many benefits of this important mineral.

Iron Basics
As stated before, iron is a mineral. It's main role in the body is the production of proteins that form hemoglobin and myoglobin. Both help carry oxygen throughout the body, with hemoglobin existing in the red blood cells and myoglobin in the muscles. Beyond this, iron is a part of many cellular functions within the body as a component of enzymes. This explains why iron deficiency has such wide-ranging effects on the body.

Who needs iron?
Iron is important for everyone, but levels fluctuate throughout life by age, gender and other physical changes. For example, women who are pregnant need 27 mg per day for both their health and the development of the fetus. Women who are lactating need 10 mg per day if between the ages of 14 and 18 and 9 mg a day between the ages of 19 and 50.

Here are the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for iron, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

  • Seven to 12 months: 11 mg (males and females)
  • One to three years: 7 mg (males and females)
  • Four to eight years: 10 mg (males and females)
  • Nine to 13 years: 8 mg (males and females)
  • 14 to 18 years: 11 mg (males) and 15 mg (females)
  • 19 to 50 years: 8 mg (males) and 18 mg (females)
  • 51 years or more: 8 mg (males and females)

Before supplementing with additional iron, it's important to have your doctor check your blood to determine how much more, if any, you need. When an individual is found to be iron deficient, it can often be attributed to diet, blood loss or digestive issues that prevent proper nutrient absorption, according to the NIH. This can even lead to a diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia, which means your blood isn't carrying sufficient amounts of oxygen throughout the body. Symptoms of anemia include a colder-than-normal body temperature, fatigue, dizziness and irritability.

How to Get More
If you need more iron, the first thing to try is to add more iron-rich foods. Great ones to shop for include animal proteins like chicken (livers especially), beef and turkey, oatmeal, soybeans (and soy products like tofu) and legumes as well as dark, leafy greens like spinach. Adding these foods to your daily routine can make a significant difference.

Beyond food, supplements are available in many forms to add more iron to your diet. Iron supplements can cause digestive upset, so pay attention to any digestive symptoms and discuss them with your doctor. Again, speak with your doctor before adding an iron supplement. Women who are over the age of 50 often don't need supplemental iron, even in a multivitamin, since they usually get enough in their diet. Children shouldn't be given any extra iron unless advised by their doctor, as iron overdose can be life-threatening in young children.

If you're not getting enough iron in your daily diet, or have been diagnosed with an iron deficiency, check out our great selection of iron supplements at eVitamins! It could be the answer to your low energy.


Products you may like:

Nature's Plus HEMA-PLEX  Nature's Plus HEMA-PLEX 
Why you may like this product? If you've been diagnosed with an iron deficiency, this supplement provides 18 mg of iron per capsule. Made without common allergens and gentle on the stomach, it's a convenient way to add more iron to your diet.
Nature's Plus Chewable Iron  Nature's Plus Chewable Iron 
Why you may like this product? Go beyond a standard iron supplement with this product from Nature's Plus. Each serving provides 27 mg of iron plus the antioxidant benefits of vitamin C and a base of herbal extracts like raspberry leaf and rose hips. In a convenient, tasty chewable, taking your iron is easy!
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Take a Closer Look at Iron
Iron is an essential nutrient that we need on a daily basis. But how much do you know about iron and its benefits? Read on to learn why iron is so important for your health.
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