Iron Deficiency in Women

Iron deficiency is much more common in women than in men because of monthly menstrual blood loss. When iron loss is sufficiently great, anemia develops; this in turn causes many symptoms, including physical fatigue.

A new study suggests that women with mild iron deficiency—too slight to cause anemia—might noticeably benefit from iron supplements too. This double-blind placebo-controlled trial of non-anemic women with evidence of slightly low iron reserve found that iron supplements significantly improved their ability to get into better shape.1 Participants were put on a daily aerobic training program for 6 weeks. At the end of the trial, individuals receiving iron had improved significantly more than those given placebo.

So, if you are a woman trying to increase her fitness, it might be a good idea to get your iron levels measured. (The researchers in this study looked at blood levels of a substance called “ferritin” to determine iron status.)

Warning: It is not a good idea to take iron supplements if you don’t need them. Men, especially, need to be careful, as excess iron is thought to increase heart disease risk.

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