Anaemia affects roughly a third of the world's population with half the cases due to iron deficiency,[i] according to the World Health Organisation.
In Australia, iron deficiency affects about 10 per cent of young women and a significant proportion of preschool children, according to a study published in Australian Prescriber.[ii]
Iron is a mineral that helps to transport oxygen around the body, making it essential for of health. It is also important for producing energy, optimal immune function, and storing oxygen in our muscles.
A 2015 World Health Organisation reporti said iron deficiency anaemia adversely affects brain and muscle development, causes fatigue and low productivity. In pregnancy, it may be associated with low birth weight and increased risk of maternal and infant mortality.
A person may become iron deficient if they do not get enough iron in their diet, if they’ve lost a lot of iron through excessive bleeding, or if their body isn’t able to properly absorb iron.
Iron deficiency develops gradually and, because of this, its symptoms may not always alert you to an immediate issue.
Symptoms of iron deficiency or anaemia include:
People at risk include pregnant women, adolescent girls, women of childbearing age, young children and people who are on restricted diets, particularly vegetarians and vegans.
Some foods can help our bodies absorb iron, while others can inhibit it. To ensure your iron is being absorbed we recommend that you:
Ensure that you only take iron supplements under the advice of your GP or health practitioner, as too much iron can also be harmful.
Speak to your health professional about the right diet, lifestyle, testing and potential supplements that might be appropriate for you.
References available on request