Australia’s iron deficiency problem

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 7th December 2016

Australian doctors are calling for people to be more aware of iron deficiency, saying it is more common than is often thought.

“Iron deficiency is very common”, say Dr Jonathan Baird-Gunning and Dr Jonathan Bromley in the latest edition of the Australian Prescriber journal.

The doctors say the deficiency affects a significant proportion of pre-schoolers and women in industrial countries.

Other at-risk groups include the very young and the very old, and people with restrictive dietary patterns such as vegetarians and vegans.

Signs of untreated iron deficiency can include fatigue, the worsening of some symptoms like angina, disorders like restless leg syndrome, and memory and mental processing problems in children.

How to find out if you are iron deficient

Any person with iron deficiency needs to be tested to find the underlying causes. “Ideally the first step towards correcting iron deficiency is for your doctor to do an iron study to assess your iron stores,” said Dr Baird-Gunning.

The treatment then depends on the severity of the iron deficiency and the patient’s other health conditions.

“There are lots of ways to correct iron deficiency, ranging from dietary advice—ensuring you’re eating enough iron-rich food—to taking oral iron supplements,” said Dr Baird-Gunning. “In more severe cases iron injections or blood transfusions may be needed.”

What can vegans and vegetarians do to up their iron intake?

The doctors say one tip for vegetarians or vegans looking to increase the iron in their diets is to increase their vitamin C intake, such as through a glass of orange juice. This might help improve the absorption of iron absorption from vegetables.

Although the doctors say correcting iron deficiency is important, they also say too much iron can be toxic and that iron tablets need to be kept out of reach from children.

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