Study explores low-dose iron supplementation in premenopausal women

By Asia Sherman

- Last updated on GMT

© nikkimeel / Getty Images
© nikkimeel / Getty Images

Related tags Iron supplements Iron deficiency megafood

A low-dose iron supplement could restore iron levels in healthy premenopausal women with iron deficiency without anemia (IDWA) but without the usual side effects of a higher dosage, according to a recent study.

“Iron deficiency without anemia (IDWA) is a prevalent health concern in premenopausal women,” the researchers wrote in the journal Nutrients​. “Oral supplementation of iron may be a viable solution to improve blood-iron status in women; however, the effects of a high-dose iron-supplement regimen have been associated with gastrointestinal side effects.” 

The study was led by the Applied Science and Performance Institute in Tampa, FL and received funding from New Hampshire-based supplement company MegaFood to evaluate the effectiveness of an iron dietary supplement as alternative to prescription iron treatment.

IDWA in premenopausal women

The research team observed that while iron deficiency anemia is a recognized and diagnosed medical condition, IDWA is a common mineral deficiency that affects approximately 1.6 billion of the world’s population and often goes undetected.

Whereas anemia is diagnosed once hemoglobin values fall below a threshold value of 11.0 g/dL, symptoms of iron deficiency may exist undiagnosed prior. For the present study, the researchers defined IDWA as ferritin values below 70 ng/mL and a hemoglobin value over 11.0 g/dL.

“Iron deficiency in women may stem from a variety of causes: inadequate dietary intake, increased iron need for the body, impaired iron absorption, chronic inflammation, and/or blood loss,” the researchers noted.

The study adopted the highest recommended daily elemental iron allowance (27 mg while the tolerable upper limit is 45 mg) determined by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in healthy premenopausal female populations, including during pregnancy.

Study details

The double-blind, placebo-controlled trial evaluated 85 premenopausal female participants with IDWA who were randomly assigned to one of two groups: placebo (PLA) or a low-dose liquid fermented iron-bisglycinate supplement (LIS). There were no significant differences between groups for BMI, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen saturation. 

Both test substances were prepared by MegaFood. The LIS included 7 g of carbohydrates, 10 mcg of vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin), 27 mg of iron (as fermented iron bisglycinate), and other ingredients like citrus peel extract and apple, pear, tart cherry, beetroot juice concentrates, while the placebo included all ingredients except for the iron and vitamin B12.

Blood samples were taken at baseline and at the end of the eight-week test period to measure serum-iron markers. Surveys evaluating gastrointestinal distress were administered at baseline, week 4 and week 8, while the profile of mood states (POMS) was surveyed at baseline and week 8.

“[T]he results of this study provide evidence that supplementing with a LIS is effective in improving blood-iron biomarkers, as indicated through increases in iron, ferritin, and MCV, while tSAT values were trending towards significance,” the researchers concluded, adding that these improvements were achieved without increasing constipation or gastrointestinal distress.

The researchers noted that follow-up blood assessments would have been valuable to assess the long-term effectiveness of the LIS at maintaining improved iron-biomarker values and that future studies could expand the test population to children or others susceptible to iron deficiency.

Source: Nutrients2023​, 15(11), 2620
“Assessment of the Efficacy of a Low-Dose Iron Supplement in Restoring Iron Levels to Normal Range among Healthy Premenopausal Women with Iron Deficiency without Anemia”
Authors: Matthew W. Stefan et al.

Related topics Research Minerals Women's health

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