How Much Iron Is Needed For Iron Deficiency


How much iron is needed for iron deficiency? Can you get enough iron through diet alone? This article will answer the question by looking at the essentiality of iron and how it is measured, vegetarian and vegan sources of dietary iron, heme and non-heme sources of non-haeme iron, and the recommended daily allowance for men, women, children and infants.

How Much Iron Is Needed For Iron Deficiency

Iron a mineral that’s necessary for life. Iron plays a key role in the making of red blood cells, which carry oxygen. You can get iron from food and from supplements. If you don’t have enough iron, you may develop anemia, a low level of red blood cells. However, most people in the U.S. get their iron from food.

Iron Intakes and Status

People in the United States usually obtain adequate amounts of iron from their diets, but infants, young children, teenaged girls, pregnant women, and premenopausal women are at risk of obtaining insufficient amounts [28,33-35]. The average daily iron intake from foods is 11.5–13.7 mg/day in children aged 2–11 years, 15.1 mg/day in children and teens aged 12–19 years, and 16.3–18.2 mg/day in men and 12.6–13.5 mg/day in women older than 19 [28]. The average daily iron intake from foods and supplements is 13.7–15.1 mg/day in children aged 2–11 years, 16.3 mg/day in children and teens aged 12–19 years, and 19.3–20.5 mg/day in men and 17.0–18.9 mg/day in women older than 19. The median dietary iron intake in pregnant women is 14.7 mg/day [5].

Rates of iron deficiency vary by race and other sociodemographic factors. Six percent of white and black toddlers aged 1 to 3 years in the United States are iron deficient (defined as at least two abnormal results for the child’s age and gender on transferrin saturation, free erythrocyte protoporphyrin, and/or serum ferritin tests), compared with 12% of Hispanic toddlers [36]. Deficiency (including IDA) is more common among children and adolescents in food-insecure households than in food-secure households [36,37]. Among pregnant women, deficiency based on depleted iron stores is more common in Mexican American (23.6%) and non-Hispanic black women (29.6%) than in non-Hispanic white women (13.9%) [38].

Some groups are at risk of obtaining excess iron. Individuals with hereditary hemochromatosis, which predisposes them to absorb excessive amounts of dietary iron, have an increased risk of iron overload [39]. One study suggests that elderly people are more likely to have chronic positive iron balance and elevated total body iron than iron deficiency. Among 1,106 elderly white adults aged 67 to 96 years in the Framingham Heart Study, 13% had high iron stores (serum ferritin levels higher than 300 mcg/L in men and 200 mcg/L in women), of which only 1% was due to chronic disease [40]. The authors did not assess genotypes, so they could not determine whether these results were due to hemochromatosis.

Why do people take iron?

Iron supplements are most often used for certain types of anemia. Anemia can cause fatigue and other symptoms. If you have symptoms of anemia, seek care from your health care provider. Don’t try to treat it on your own.

Iron supplements are often prescribed to treat anemia caused by:

  • Pregnancy
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Kidney disease
  • Chemotherapy

Those who may be at risk for iron deficiency include preterm infants, young children, teenage girls, and pregnant women, as well as people with certain health conditions including chronic heart failure, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and ulcerative colitis. Iron supplements are commonly recommended for women who are pregnant or of childbearing age to help prevent anemia. Before taking an iron supplement, ask your health care provider if it is right for you.

Strict vegetarians may need to take in higher levels of iron.At high doses, iron is toxic. For adults and children ages 14 and up, the upper limit — the highest dose that can be taken safely — is 45 mg a day. Children under age 14 should not take more than 40 mg a day.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that — starting at 4 months of age — full-term, breastfed infants should be supplemented with 1 mg/kg per day of oral iron. This should continue until iron-containing complementary foods, such as iron-fortified cereals, are introduced in the diet. Standard infant formula that contains 12 mg/L iron can fulfill the iron needs of an infant until age 1.

IGraphic for Post- iron rich foods baby, toddler and kids - complete guide and over 50 recipes. Images are in a grid on colorful kids plates with iron rich foods.


Confused about what iron is and why your child needs it? Then you have come to the right place!

Iron is essential for growing babies, toddlers, and kids, as it helps with brain development. It’s also essential for producing red blood cells, which sends oxygen from our lungs to different parts of the body. While babies are born with enough iron stores to last them until 6 months of age, it is important to make sure you are providing enough iron in their diets after their iron reserves are depleted.

In this complete guide to iron, we will go over everything you need to know about what iron is, how much baby, toddler, and kids need in their diets, lists of the best iron-rich foods, plus over 50 easy iron-rich recipes that contain both animal and plant-based iron sources.

Some studies have suggested that iron supplementation in young children living in areas where malaria is endemic could increase their risk of malaria [75,76]. However, a Cochrane review of 33 trials in 13,114 children showed that intermittent supplementation does not appear to have this effect [77]. The WHO therefore recommends 6-month supplementation cycles as follows: children aged 24 to 59 months should receive 25 mg iron and those aged 5 to 12 years should receive 45 mg every week for 3 months, followed by 3 months of no supplementation [75]. The WHO recommends providing these supplements in malaria-endemic areas in conjunction with measures to prevent, diagnose, and treat malaria.Intravenous Iron

In some cases your doctor may recommend intravenous (IV) iron. IV iron may be necessary to treat iron deficiency in patients who do not absorb iron well in the gastrointestinal tract, patients with severe iron deficiency or chronic blood loss, patients who are receiving supplemental erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates blood production, or patients who cannot tolerate oral iron. If you need IV iron, your doctor may refer you to a hematologist to supervise the iron infusions. IV iron comes in different preparations:

  • Iron dextran
  • Iron sucrose
  • Ferric gluconate

Large doses of iron can be given at one time when using iron dextran. Iron sucrose and ferric gluconate require more frequent doses spread over several weeks. Some patients may have an allergic reaction to IV iron, so a test dose may be administered before the first infusion. Allergic reactions are more common with iron dextran and may necessitate switching to a different preparation. Severe side effects other than allergic reactions are rare and include urticaria (hives), pruritus (itching), and muscle and joint pain.

Front view of major skeletal muscles

Adults with normal intestinal function have very little risk of iron overload from dietary sources of iron [2]. However, acute intakes of more than 20 mg/kg iron from supplements or medicines can lead to gastric upset, constipation, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and faintness, especially if food is not taken at the same time [2,5]. Taking supplements containing 25 mg elemental iron or more can also reduce zinc absorption and plasma zinc concentrations [3,87,88]. In severe cases (e.g., one-time ingestions of 60 mg/kg), overdoses of iron can lead to multisystem organ failure, coma, convulsions, and even death [27,89].

Between 1983 and 2000, at least 43 U.S. children died from ingesting supplements containing high doses of iron (36–443 mg iron/kg body weight) [27]. Accidental ingestion of iron supplements caused about a third of poisoning deaths among children reported in the United States between 1983 and 1991.In 1997, the FDA began requiring oral supplements containing more than 30 mg elemental iron per dose to be sold in single-dose packaging with strong warning labels. At the same time, many manufacturers voluntarily replaced the sugar coating on iron tablets with film coatings. Between 1998 and 2002, only one child death due to ingesting an iron-containing tablet was reported [27]. As a result of a court decision, the FDA removed its single-dose packaging requirement for iron supplements in 2003 [90]. FDA currently requires that iron-containing dietary supplements sold in solid form (e.g., tablets or capsules but not powders) carry the following label statement: “WARNING: Accidental overdose of iron-containing products is a leading cause of fatal poisoning in children under 6. Keep this product out of reach of children. In case of accidental overdose, call a doctor or poison control center immediately” [91]. In addition, since 1978, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has required manufacturers to package dietary supplements containing 250 mg or more elemental iron per container in child-resistant bottles or packaging to prevent accidental poisoning [92,93].

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