Iron Deficiency Treatment, and Supplements

Can Dietary Treatment of Non-Anemic Iron Deficiency Improve Iron Status?

Anne-Louise M. Heath, PhD, C. Murray Skeaff, PhD, Sue M. O’Brien, BHSc, RD(NZ), Sheila M. Williams, BS, PGDip, and Rosalind S. Gibson, PhD

Departments of Human Nutrition (A.-L.M.H., C.M.S., S.M.O., R.S.G.), Preventive & Social Medicine (S.M.W.), University of Otago, Dunedin, NEW ZEALAND []

Objective: To investigate the efficacy of, first, a dietary regimen involving increased consumption of iron-rich foods and enhancers of iron absorption and decreased consumption of inhibitors of iron absorption and, second, a low dose iron chelate iron supplement, for increasing iron stores in young adult New Zealand women with mild iron deficiency (MID).

Methods: The study was a 16 week randomized placebo-controlled intervention. Seventy-five women aged 18 to 40 years with MID (serum ferritin <20g/L and hemoglobin <120g/L) were assigned to one of three groups: Placebo, Supplement (50mg iron/day as amino acid chelate) or Diet. Participants in the Diet Group were given individual dietary counseling to increase the intake and bioavailability of dietary iron. Dietary changes were monitored by a previously validated computer-administered iron food frequency questionnaire.

Results: Diet Group members significantly increased their intake of flesh foods, heme iron, vitamin C and foods cooked using cast-iron cookware and significantly decreased their phytate and calcium intakes. Serum ferritin increased in the Supplement and Diet Groups by 59% (p=0.001) and 26% (p=0.068), respectively, in comparison to the Placebo Group. The serum transferrin receptor:serum ferritin ratio decreased by 51% in the Supplement Group (p=0.0001), and there was a non-significant decrease of 22% (p=0.1232) in the Diet Group.

Conclusions: This study is the first, to our knowledge, to demonstrate that an intensive dietary program has the potential to improve the iron status of women with iron deficiency.

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