Extra iron can give women an energy boost

By Staff Writer • Published: October 15th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Sick and tired of feeling sick and tired? As many as a quarter of women who visit primary care doctors report symptoms of fatigue.

Typically, a physician’s first course of action involves testing the patient for iron-deficiency anemia, and the small percentage of women found to be anemic are generally prescribed iron supplements. But new research suggests that even women who report fatigue but aren’t anemic can benefit from iron supplements, too.

Iron is a part of all cells in the human body. As part of the protein hemoglobin, it helps muscles use and store oxygen and transports oxygen throughout the body.

Iron-deficiency anemia occurs when blood doesn’t contain enough hemoglobin. Anemia can inhibit a number of bodily functions, from limiting a person’s ability to do physical work or even disabling memory.

Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common nutritional disorder in the world, particularly plaguing women and children in developing countries. Worldwide, more than 2 billion people are anemic.

Iron supplements have long been used to reverse those effects in anemic people. But the new research suggests you don’t have to be anemic to benefit from iron.

In the study, iron supplements reduced fatigue by nearly 50 percent in women whose blood was low in iron but did not reach anemic levels. Neither the women nor their physicians knew whether they were taking the iron supplements or placebos. The results were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The message for women who are feeling fatigued is that you don’t have to have a severe iron deficiency to benefit from some extra iron.