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Dietary Iron & Weight Loss

Dietary Iron and weight loss

Iron deficiency is a potentially serious condition and is believed to affect millions of Australians and more than one billion people worldwide. At the opposite end of the spectrum, iron excess creates health problems of its own for millions more.

This article provides some quick facts about iron and iron deficiencies and excesses, explains the link between iron and weight loss and provides a list of iron rich foods.

Some quick facts about dietary iron:

  • According to a National Australian Nutrition Survey 25% of girls between the ages of 12 and 16 don't reach the recommended dietary intake for iron
  • Iron rates as the most common single nutrient deficiency in Australia
  • In infancy, anaemia can lead to poor mental and motor development, which may have long term consequences
  • During childhood and adolescence increased amounts of iron are required to meet growth requirements
  • There are two forms of dietary iron, haem iron found in flesh foods such as lean meat, chicken and fish and non-haem iron found in plant foods
  • Iron deficiency is more common in women
  • Iron's principal job is to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body
  • People who follow a vegetarian diet may be at increased risk of iron deficiency as these diets are typically low in iron-rich foods
  • Typical symptoms of iron deficiency include extreme tiredness, fatigue, breathlessness on light exertion, dizzy spells and an unnaturally pale complexion
  • Excessive amounts of tea, coffee and bran can dramatically reduce iron levels
  • The iron in breast milk is better absorbed by infants than the iron in cows milk
  • The most common cause of iron loss is menstruation
  • The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of iron is: Girls and Boys 1-11 years: 6-8mgs, Girls and Boys 12-18 years: 10-13mgs, Men over 19: 7mgs, Women 19-54 years: 12-16mgs, Women over 54 years: 5-7mgs, Pregnant women: 25-35mgs
  • Eating vitamin C rich foods (fruit, fruit juices, vegetables) or small amounts of meat fish or chicken with plant foods will improve absorption of iron
  • Too much iron in the blood can increase the risk of heart disease, cirrhosis, diabetes, arthritis and cause extra wear and tear on tis sue s and organs, especially if the diet does not provide enough antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E
  • The only way to know where we are on the iron spectrum is via a blood test

Iron and weight loss

Iron levels are particularly important to those of us with weight loss goals because:

  • Followers of fad diets, regular fasting, single food diets, yo-yo dieting or diet/weight loss pills, may have particularly low iron levels and deficiencies in other valuable vitamins and minerals making it even more difficult for them to lose weight, or sustain weight loss in the long term
  • Regular, intense exercise is an important component of successful weight loss and this exercise requires optimal energy levels and good supplies of oxygen reaching all parts of the body, including working muscles
  • Exercisers are at increased risk of iron deficiency because iron is lost through sweat and through tis sue damage during exercise

So if you're are on a particularly strict diet or are exercising to lose weight, it's important to know that you aren't iron deficient and that you're getting enough iron in your diet everyday.

Iron Rich Food

The best way to ensure we are getting enough dietary iron is to eat the widest possible variety of foods that are naturally high in iron, including:

  • Lean meat (beef, veal, lamb and pork)
  • Liver, Kidney and heart are particularly rich sources
  • Chicken, other poultry and fish
  • Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals
  • Rolled oats, rice and pasta
  • Bread
  • Legumes (baked beans, dried peas, beans and lentils)
  • Potatoes and vegetables, particularly peas, beans and broad beans
  • Dried Fruit

To know exactly how much Iron we're getting in our diet, reading food labels and looking up the Iron content of the foods we eat on the Food Nutrition Tables available free on this website is a must.

Iron supplements

Iron supplements can be of help to some people, such as pregnant women and women who have heavy periods.

Prior to taking any iron supplements it is very important that we all speak with our doctor first.

If you believe that your diet may be deficient in iron, it may also be a good idea to book an appointment with a dietitian.


Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. At the opposite end of the spectrum, iron excess creates health problems of its own.

Many Australian's, particularly women, do not achieve their daily recommended intake of iron and suffer extreme tiredness, fatigue, breathlessness on light exertion, dizzy spells and an unnaturally pale complexion as a result.

This article provided some quick facts about iron and iron deficiencies and excesses, explained the link between iron and weight loss and provided a list of iron rich foods.

Are you getting enough iron in your diet?

Good luck with your weight loss and thanks for visiting weightloss.com.au.

Copyright Ultimate Weightloss.

This article was written by Scott Haywood.

Scott is the editor of weightloss.com.au. Scott has developed an expertise in fitness and nutrition, and their roles in weight loss, which led him to launch weightloss.com.au in 2005. Today, weightloss.com.au provides weight loss and fitness information, including hundreds of healthy recipes, weight loss tools and tips, articles, and more, to millions of people around the world, helping them to lead happier, healthier, lives.

You can follow Scott on Google+ for more interesting articles.

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