Iron continues to be the most common nutrient deficiency in the developed world, with an especially high prevalence in women and during pregnancy. In fact, 1 out of every 2 women will be iron-deficient at one point in their lives and even more suffer from symptoms associated with suboptimal iron levels. Although fatigue, weakness, hair loss and pallor are classic symptoms of iron deficiency anemia, low iron levels affect many other body systems. For example, iron deficiency has been found to be a cause of restless syndrome in approximately 1 out of every 4 cases and supplemental iron can improve symptoms. This is thought to be achieved by iron’s upregulation of dopamine synthesis from tyrosine. It is also well documented that children and adults perform poorer on mental function tests when in states of iron deficiency, with areas such as attention, memory and concentration being affected.
Iron also plays a critical role in many hormonal pathways. Iron is required for thyroid conversion from thyroxine (T4) to triiodothyronine (T3) and iron supplementation may improve the outcomes of levothyroxine therapy in affected patients. In women with heavy menstrual bleeding, iron deficiency can cause a recurring state of heavy menstrual bleeding through weakened uterine muscles, thereby exacerbating the condition.
Evidence also shows that women with unexplained infertility and suboptimal iron status may benefit from iron restoration therapy.