Facts about iron absorption and health

Role of iron

Iron is an important dietary mineral that is important for various bodily functions, including the transport of oxygen in the blood. This is essential in providing energy for daily life.

Iron is thought to be lost from the body through inefficient absorption, gastrointestinal disruption, the shedding of cells, and blood loss. It is also thought that up to fifteen per cent of the Australian population may have iron deficiency at some time, with menstruating women at greater risk than men and postmenopausal women.

Iron absorption

The average person needs to absorb just a small amount of iron each day to stay healthy. To achieve this, however, we need to consume several times that amount. This is because our bodies absorb only a fraction of the iron contained in the foods we eat.

Folic Acid & Iron

Folic acid supplemented with iron may increase the metabolic usage of iron. Folic acid with iron helps restore healthy iron levels. (1)

Iron supplementation
  • Sometimes symptoms associated with iron supplementation can include dark coloured or black stools.
  • Other common experiences can include symptoms of nausea, mild upper gastric discomfort, constipation and diarrhoea. See your doctor for advice but, generally speaking, treatment involves lowering the recommended dose for a short time to give the body time to adjust.
  • Iron supplements should be taken on an empty stomach.
  • Take the supplements as advised by your doctor.

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(1) Juarez-Vazquez J, Bonizzoni E, Scotti A, Iron plus folate is more effective than iron alone in the treatment of iron deficiency in pregnancy: a randomised double blind clinical trial, International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 2002; 109:1009-1004