By TAP Integrative

Iron deficiency is the world’s most common nutritional disorder. It’s especially prevalent among women and children, and unlike many nutrient deficiencies, it affects a significant number of people in industrialized, as well as developing, countries. As a result, some 2 billion people – more than 30 percent of the global population – suffer from anemia, which is often caused by iron deficiency.

Anemia is a condition that develops because of low levels of healthy red blood cells (specifically hemoglobin) and is associated with a number of adverse, sometimes debilitating, health effects. Such health effects include: fatigue, decreased cognitive function, pallor, breathlessness and reduced capacity for exertion.

Women of childbearing age who are not pregnant are especially susceptible to iron-deficiency anemia because they lose iron stores through menstruation. This segment of the population represents approximately one-third of all cases of anemia worldwide. Supplementing with iron is believed to reverse iron-deficiency anemia. Prior to a paper published in 2016 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the trials in this population hadn’t been synthesized in a systematic review.

This Cochrane review of studies on the topic aimed to determine what effects oral iron supplements taken five or more days a week have on specific health outcomes in menstruating women. Ferrous sulphate was noted as the most commonly used of type of iron. The authors included 67 trials (8,506 women) in the review.

Evidence collected showed that iron supplements do reduce the prevalence of anemia and iron deficiency in menstruating women, while also raising levels of hemoglobin and iron stores. The findings also pointed to improvements in exercise performance and reduction of fatigue, though the effects on cognitive performance remained uncertain.

Side effects were also clearly associated with iron supplementation—including constipation and abdominal pain.

The authors concluded that daily iron supplementation is an effective way to reduce prevalence of anemia and iron deficiency, improve exercise performance, and reduce fatigue in menstruating women. However, they also point out that further research is needed to elucidate effects on other health outcomes.


Low MS, Speedy J, Styles CE, De-Regil LM, Pasricha SR. Daily iron supplementation for improving anaemia, iron status and health in menstruating women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Apr 18;4:CD009747.


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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease