Iron is one of the better-known minerals, and plays several important roles in the body. This includes helping to transport vital nutrients, which means that if our iron levels are too low, our body is likely to function less efficiently, making us feel tired.
If iron levels drop further, anaemia can develop, causing symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, and breathlessness, as well as weak muscles.
According to the World Health Organisation, iron is the nutrient both men and women are most likely to be deficient in; with vegans, vegetarians, and women and girls of reproductive age being particularly at risk. For these groups, iron supplements are likely to be beneficial, either alone or as part of a multivitamin.
The Healthspan range includes two specific iron supplements, IronCare® and Elite Iron Complex, which provide iron in a stomach-friendly form to help your body gain the most benefit without digestive distress.
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Benefits of Iron
Iron performs several important functions in the body, which include supporting the immune system, energy production and cognitive function.
So far, the Government has approved the following health claims:
- Iron contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue
- Iron contributes to the normal function of the immune system
- Iron contributes to normal oxygen transport in the body
- Iron contributes to the normal formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin (a molecule found within red blood cells which moves oxygen throughout the body)
- Iron contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism
- Iron contributes to normal cognitive function
These important functions mean that it is important for anyone who does not consume their recommended daily amount to consider an iron supplement.
Where to get iron from
Animals are the richest sources of iron; namely beef, lamb, pork, chicken and turkey, plus seafood (salmon, sardines and tuna) and organ meats. These foods contain haem iron, which is easily absorbed by the body compared to non-haem iron, which is found in plant-based foods.
However, as many people try to limit their intake of red and processed meats for health reasons, even meat-eaters may not consume enough.
Non-haem iron (found in nuts and seeds, legumes, dried fruit, wholemeal bread and pasta, and leafy green vegetables) will still provide the body with iron, but much larger quantities (around 70-80 per cent more) need to be consumed to boost the body's iron levels.
Studies have also shown that the levels of iron, copper and calcium in vegetables have decreased by up to 76 per cent since 1940. As a result, vegetarians and vegans are particularly vulnerable to iron deficiency, and are likely to benefit from supplements.
Women and girls of menstruating age are also vulnerable to iron deficiency and anaemia thanks to the blood lost during monthly periods.
How Much Iron Do You Need?
The NHS recommends that men aged 19 and over have 8.7mg of iron a day. This rises to 14.8mg for women between the ages of 19 and 49, before dropping to 8.7mg for women over 50.
According to the latest UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey, iron was especially low among girls and women aged between 11 and 64, with almost half of girls and almost a quarter of women having low intakes (which can be further compounded by blood loss from menstruation).
When using supplements, the NHS advises that "taking 17mg or less a day of iron supplements is unlikely to cause any harm". Higher doses should only be taken when recommended by a doctor.
Types of Iron Supplements
Iron supplements are available in a number of forms. Iron tablets are the most popular, as they're easy to take and add into a healthy routine. For the best results, do not take with tea and coffee (ideally leave a two-hour gap) as these can stop your body absorbing the iron.
Healthspan's iron tablets use a gentle form – iron bisglycinate – which is highly bioavailable (easily-absorbed) and gentle on the body.
Healthspan's best-selling iron supplement, IronCare®, provides 14mg of iron in every tablet. Thanks to the innovative form of iron used – iron bisglycinate – the tablets are gentle on the stomach, and ensure that iron levels are restored without many of the side effects associated with traditional iron supplements, such as nausea and constipation.
The superior formulation also contains vitamin B2, which supports the body's ability to metabolise iron, alongside vitamins B6 and B12, which are important for energy and combating fatigue. It also contains copper, which helps to transport iron around the body, plus vitamin C, to improve iron absorption.
For sportspeople, Elite Iron Complex is approved by Informed Sport, and is particularly beneficial for endurance athletes, who may suffer from 'iron drain' (resulting in symptoms such as tiredness, fatigue and a lowered immune system).
The stomach-friendly formula provides 14mg iron bisglycinate, plus added B vitamins, vitamin C and copper, to help support the formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin, and aid the transport and absorption of iron in the body.
Both supplements are suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
Many Healthspan multivitamins also contain iron, namely in the form of ferrous fumarate. This is one of the most popular forms, and is used to treat and prevent iron deficiency anaemia (although it is best avoided by those with Crohn's disease).
To ensure there's something for everyone, Healthspan's multivitamins offer different quantities of iron. For example, MultiVitality® Gold and MultiVitality for Vegetarians & Vegans both contain 14mg, while MultiVitality® 50 Plus (formulated for the over-50s, who are likely to need less iron) contains 7mg per tablet and MultiVitality® 70 Plus 3.5mg per tablet.
Healthspan's pregnancy vitamin, PregnaPure® Pregnancy & New Mum, contains 17mg iron per daily dose (also in the popular ferrous fumarate form) to help support increased blood supply.
It should be noted that ferrous sulphate, which appears in other brands, should not be taken every day – and is best avoided – as it can cause oxidative damage.
Healthspan Iron Tablets & Supplements
Whichever iron vitamin you choose, it's a Healthspan principle to provide the highest-quality supplements at the best possible price, so you can be assured of the best results. With a range of options, catering for vegetarians and vegans, pregnancy and breastfeeding, the under-50s and the over-70s, there's something for everyone.
If you have any questions or need more information about Healthspan's iron pills or finding the best iron supplement for you, our customer advisors are available seven days a week in our UK-based call centre. Here's how you can get in touch.
You can also read more in our expert articles above, or take a look at our wider range of vitamins and minerals.