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Who is most likely to need iron supplements?

Monthly periods are the most common cause of iron loss worldwide. Research shows that women of childbearing age need 2-3 times more iron than men. Amongst women who experience heavier periods, especially in their 30’s and 40’s, adequate daily iron intake is particularly important and may be difficult to achieve with diet alone.

Although a vegetarian diet will be high in iron-rich foods, this plant-based (non-haem) source of iron is poorly absorbed. This may be coupled with other potential absorption obstacles such as phytates in whole-grains and legumes or tannins in tea and coffee, which can bind iron and further reduce absorption.

Iron is used by the body’s muscles to help produce energy. This explains why active exercisers, especially adults who enjoy endurance exercise (e.g. running, rowing, cycling) need iron to maintain and support energy and normal immunity.

The main adverse effect of blood donation is an iron loss. Blood donation experts often recommend a course of at least 30mg of daily iron for up to 6 months post-donation. This also helps with red blood cell and haemoglobin production.