Iron Deficiency

Iron Deficiency & Iron Deficiency Anemia

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide. In Canada, it’s estimated that around 5% of Canadians (8% of females) have iron deficiency.

Iron deficiency anemia comes from lack of iron in the body. Without enough iron, the body cannot produce hemoglobin and as a result, iron deficiency anemia may cause fatigue and shortness of breath.

Vegetarians need almost twice the daily recommended amount of iron compared with non-vegetarians. Iron is also essential for pregnant women to ensure normal fetal development.

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Why is iron important? 1

  • Iron is a vital component of hemoglobin, an iron-containing protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s vital organs.
  • Without enough iron, hemoglobin cannot transport oxygen throughout the body resulting in iron deficiency anemia.

What Is Iron Deficiency Anemia? 1

  • It is caused by a shortage of iron in the body.
  • The body requires iron to make hemoglobin. Without adequate iron, the body cannot produce enough hemoglobin for red blood cells.
  • Without iron supplementation, this type of anemia is common among pregnant women.
  • It can also be caused by blood loss due to heavy menstrual bleeding, an ulcer, lack of iron in diet and regular use of some over-the-counter pain relievers, especially aspirin.
1 The Journal of Biological Chemistry Vol. 284 No. 2, pp. 711–715, January 9, 2009
Anemia. Mayo Clinic.

Prevalence of Iron deficiency anemia (IDA)

1Adapted from Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 82-003-XPE • Health Reports, Vol. 23, no.4, December 2012 Iron Deficiency – Diagnosis and Management (2019)
3Adapted from Canadian Celiac Association, March 2008 (Nutrition Complications for Celiac Disease)
4Canadian family physician 2015, 61(2)159

Signs & Symptoms of Iron deficiency anemia (IDA)

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache, dizziness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Inflammation or soreness of the tongue
  • Brittle nails
  • Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or starch

US National Library of Medicine, National Heart, Lunch, and Blood Institute. Iron deficiency anemia.

Treatment options for Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA)

Heme iron: animal sources
Non-heme iron: plant sources

Heme or
Non-heme iron

Intravenous (IV) iron or
Intramuscular (IM) iron

Mayo Clinic. Iron Deficiency Anemia. Oct. 2019.