Iron is the main component needed for the manufacture of haemoglobin, the pigment accounting the colour of red blood cells. Haemoglobin is comprised of an iron compound combined with a ] and is the means by which oxygen is transported through the body. A lack of dietary iron leads t deficiency anaemia, a problem that is especially common in young women, pregnant women, eld people (often due to poor absorption), those on low income and in children who are vegan or vegetarian or who eat a poor diet. The need for iron in blood building can vary in the same pers depending on special circumstances. For example, women may lose 25-30mg of iron during menstruation, while during pregnancy as much as lOOOmg of iron may be provided by the moth order to support the needs of the foetus. It is interesting to note that the “pool” of available iror body of women of childbearing age may be an average of 60-80% less than in men. Nutrients si vitamin B12, folic acid, vitamin C, copper and molybdenum facilitate the utilisation and functioi iron as a blood builder.


In addition to facilitating the transport of oxygen through the bloodstream through its influence haemoglobin, iron is also a component of myoglobin, a pigment which functions in the muscles similar manner as haemoglobin does in the blood (i.e. myoglobin allows the muscle cells to retai oxygen).


Iron is also an essential constituent of many enzymes required for proper health. Among other functions, iron-dependent enzymes influence energy utilisation and metabolism and the synthesi collagen, brain neurotransmitters and DNA. Many symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia (such ; fatigue, weakness and apathy) are associated not only with cellular oxygen depletion (and the commensurate reduction in cellular energy output), but also the reduced energy production and metabolism due to enzyme deficiencies. It is important to note that iron deficiency anaemia is considered to be the final stage of iron deficiency. Prior to this occurring, there can be considers biochemical and physiological disruption caused by depleted brain neurotransmitters and a redi the enzymes involved in metabolism, energy manufacture and antioxidant systems.

Potential Applications

•        Iron deficiency anaemia

•        Fatigue (if iron deficient)

•        Weakness (if iron deficient)

•        “Restless legs” syndrome

•        Pregnancy

•        Heavy periods

•        Excessive loss of blood (i.e. menstruation, peptic ulcers, ulcerative colitis/Crohn’s Disease)

EC RDA (adults)

• 14mg

Common Supplement Forms/Sources

•        Iron (ferrous) sulfate

•        Iron gluconate

•        Iron fumarate

•        Iron citrate

•        Iron succinate

•        Iron bisglycinate (non-constipating form)

•        Iron amino acid chelate

•        Liquid iron

Common Food Sources

•        Liver

•        Red meat

•        Blackstrap molasses

•        Raisins

•        Prunes

•        Pumpkin seeds

•        Almonds

•        Cashews

•       Legumes

Contraindications/Cautions/lnteractions/Toxicity Concerns


With iron supplements there is a danger of a dangerous accidental overdose – as with copper, iron supplements should be kept out of the reach of children. Accidental ingestion of as little as SO tablets at one time may cause death in small children.

•        Symptoms of severe iron poisoning include intestinal tract damage, liver failure, nausea, vomiting and shock. Especially in small children, acute iron poisoning can be lethal.

•        It has been reported that regular use of excessive doses may increase the susceptibility to infections and cancer.

•        Individuals suffering with haemochromatosis, chronic kidney failure or Hodgkin’s Disease should not take iron supplements unless on the advice and under the strict monitoring of a physician.

•        Many experts have expressed concerns that elevated blood levels of free (unbound) iron may increase the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. It is worth noting that there has yet to be a proven relationship between iron supplementation and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. However, it is recommended that those who are at higher risk of heart disease should avoid high iron intakes unless on the advice and under the monitoring of a physician. Free (unbound) iron may trigger free radical-induced oxidative damage to cholesterol in the bloodstream, which would ultimately cause atherosclerotic damage to the arteries.

Please note: This type of free radical oxidation can be inhibited by antioxidant nutrients such as vitamins E and C, while bioflavonoids may be of value in protecting the connective tissue of the arteries from oxidative damage.

•        Iron supplements may cause constipation, diarrhoea, nausea or irritation to the stomach. Such gastrointestinal symptoms are common with iron administration even when doses are not high, especially when taken in the inorganic form (i.e. ferrous sulfate). In most cases, such problems can be avoided by taking iron in the bisglycinate form. The absorption of iron bisglycinate is also superior to ferrous sulfate.

•        Iron supplements are not recommended in patients taking the drugs allopurinol, penicillamine, warfarin, fluoroquinolone antibiotics or tetracycline, unless on the advice and under the strict monitoring of a physician.

Please note: Due to the above issues, many experts advocate iron supplements only during menstruation, pregnancy and lactation and in cases of diagnosed iron deficiency.

Agents/Factors Which Deplete Levels, Impair

•       Tea

•        Coffee

•        Milk

•        Alcohol

•        Phytates (prominent in cereal

•         grains, especially wheat bran)

•         Phosphates (i.e. from soft drinks)

Absorption and/or Inhibit fi

  • Zinc (high doses)
  • Calcium (high doses)
  • Magnesium (high doses)
  • Pancreatin
  • Antacids
  • Cholestyramine
  • Sulfasalazine

Possible Signs/Symptoms Associated with Deficiency

•        Iron deficiency anaemia

•        Fatigue

•        Weakness

•        Listlessness

•        Facial pallor

•        Cracked tongue

•        Cracked lips

•        Problems with swallowing

•       Heart palpitations

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