Benefits of Taking Iron Supplements
May 01, 2021
What is Iron?
Iron is a mineral that is naturally present in certain kinds of foods. For us humans, it is a critical component of hemoglobin, the protein in our blood that carries oxygen to the body’s tissues. It also plays an important role in growth and development, including both physical and neurological development.
Benefits of Taking Iron Supplements
There are several health benefits associated with getting enough iron. First and foremost, it helps maintain vigor. When someone is severely deficient in iron, it causes their hemoglobin levels to be too low, leading to extreme fatigue. This is because hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen to all the different parts of our body, and we need oxygen to function. Getting additional iron outside of our diet helps correct that deficiency, and can improve fatigue.
Iron is also linked to brain health – specifically cognitive function. One study showed that iron supplementation significantly improved cognitive performance in women after 4 months.1 This makes sense, because the brain uses a lot of energy, and it can’t perform as well if it doesn’t get the right nutrients and enough oxygen.
While some people get enough iron through their diet alone, certain groups are at a higher risk of developing iron deficiency. These include women with heavy periods, frequent blood donors, vegetarians, and pregnant women. Taking an iron supplement is an easy way to support your body and get all the benefits of adequate iron intake.
Iron Deficiency Symptoms
The main symptoms of iron deficiency are anemia (low levels of red blood cells) and fatigue. Other symptoms include lightheadedness, dizziness, fast heart rate, and shortness of breath, all of which can be a result of insufficient oxygen due to low hemoglobin levels in the blood.
Risk Factors for Low Iron
Groups that are at higher risk for having low iron include pregnant women, women in their childbearing years (especially those with heavy menstrual cycles), and individuals who are frequent blood donors. Additionally, individuals who have difficulty absorbing nutrients due to a medical condition may be advised by their doctor to take supplemental iron. And people who do not get very much iron through their diet, whether through dietary restrictions or personal preference, may also be at risk.
Food Sources of Iron
Good food sources of iron include lean meat and seafood, such as beef, chicken, oysters, and sardines. But meat isn’t the only source of iron in our diet. Plant based foods that provide iron include dark green leafy vegetables (like spinach), beans (like white beans or kidney beans), lentils, and fortified foods (like certain cereals, rice, and bread).
Form and Dose of Iron – What to Look For
The United States has set the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for iron at 8 mg for adult men and 18 mg for adult women (between the ages of 19-51). Adults 51 and older are recommended to intake 8 mg of iron per day. For pregnant women, the RDA is higher at 27 mg. That’s because during pregnancy, the volume of blood in a woman’s body dramatically increases, which means there is a greater demand for hemoglobin, and consequently, iron.
Some iron supplements provide much higher doses than the RDA, but it is important to remember that more is not always better when it comes to iron supplementation. The upper limit for iron supplements is currently set at 45 mg/day for adults.
Higher doses of supplemental iron are more likely to cause gastrointestinal irritation, including nausea and constipation. Certain forms of iron are more likely to cause these side effects as well. Some forms of iron, especially amino acid chelates like iron bis-glycinate, are gentler and cause less side effects compared to iron salts, like ferrous sulfate (also called iron sulfate).2 In addition to being gentler, iron bis-glycinate also has studies showing it absorbs more effectively compared to iron salts like ferrous sulfate.3
What to look for in a quality iron supplement
It is important to select an iron supplement that provides the dose appropriate to your situation. Some individuals may need higher levels of iron if they are very deficient, while others might need a lower amount to prevent deficiency. Regardless of how much iron you need, make sure to select an iron supplement that provides a gentle, well absorbed form like iron bis-glycinate.
Another important quality to keep in mind is whether an iron supplement provides vitamin C. Vitamin C helps facilitate iron absorption4, so it is often included in a more complete formula.
Some iron supplements also provide other vitamins for additional support. For example, B vitamins like folate and vitamin B12 are critical for rapidly dividing cells (like red blood cells), and they help support red blood cell health and function.
Pharmanex Iron is a great option for people who want to increase their iron intake, support healthy red blood cells, or are at risk for having low iron levels.
Pharmanex Iron is formulated to be free from artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors, and is suitable for vegetarians. A daily dose of two tablets contains 18 mg of iron, 180 mg of vitamin C, 4.8 mcg of vitamin B12 as methylcobalamin, and 666 mcg folate as methyl folate. Depending on your individual needs, you can take one or two tablets daily.
It comes in a delicious blackberry flavored melt-away tablet, which quickly dissolves on the tongue, no water needed. It’s safe for teenagers as well as adult men and women, including women who are pregnant or lactating when used as directed.*
* Pharmanex Iron is not meant for children. Please keep out of reach of children.
- Murray-Kolb LE, Beard JL. Iron treatment normalizes cognitive functioning in young women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(3):778-787.
- Szarfarc SC, de Cassana LM, Fujimori E, Guerra-Shinohara EM, de Oliveira IM. Relative effectiveness of iron bis-glycinate chelate (Ferrochel) and ferrous sulfate in the control of iron deficiency in pregnant women. Arch Latinoam Nutr. 2001;51(1 Suppl 1):42-47.
- Milman N, Jønsson L, Dyre P, Pedersen PL, Larsen LG. Ferrous bisglycinate 25 mg iron is as effective as ferrous sulfate 50 mg iron in the prophylaxis of iron deficiency and anemia during pregnancy in a randomized trial. J Perinat Med. 2014;42(2):197-206.
- Walczyk T, Muthayya S, Wegmüller R, et al. Inhibition of iron absorption by calcium is modest in an iron-fortified, casein- and whey-based drink in Indian children and is easily compensated for by addition of ascorbic acid. J Nutr. 2014;144(11):1703-1709.