By MailOnline Reporter
PUBLISHED: 19:03, 3 January 2017 | UPDATED: 15:02, 4 January 2017
Iron is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the UK, with almost half the girls aged 11 to 18, and more than a quarter of working-age women, falling short of intakes needed for good health.
A recent survey found that four out of five women have struggled with extreme tiredness and two-thirds of women in the UK have experienced more than one episode of exhaustion.
Iron and energy levels are interlinked because we need the mineral to make haemoglobin, the bit in red blood cells which transports oxygen around the body.
Tired? A recent survey found that four out of five women have struggled with extreme tiredness and two-thirds have experienced more than one episode of exhaustion
Women are at greatest risk of iron deficiency because of blood loss during monthly menstruation, but vegetarians and those who avoid red meat are also likely to be low.
But new research shows that long term deficiency can also contribute to hearing loss.
Dr Hilary Jones says: ‘Tiredness is one of the most common problems doctors see in general practice, but by the time people reach their GP they have often been struggling for weeks or months.
‘And paradoxically it’s often the ‘healthiest’ people who are not getting their requirements from diet.’
Studies have shown that a third of female athletes are deficient in iron and 56 per cent of joggers and regular runners are also low. Dr Jones explains: ‘Runners lose a lot of iron through foot-strike haemolysis, where red blood cells are ruptured as the foot hits the ground.
Gender difference: Women are at greatest risk of iron deficiency because of blood loss during monthly menstruation
Swapping red meat, which is a rich source of readily absorbed iron, for chicken, fish and vegetarian options is also undermining iron intakes.
In the past two years, women’s average red meat intake has dropped by 13 per cent — and over the same period the number of who fall short of the minimum recommended intake of iron has leapt by 17 per cent.
Dr Jones says: ‘There are some obvious dietary changes, like eating more red meat, which will help improve your iron levels. But for many women, supplements are really the only solution — and that also presents problems, as most come with some pretty unpleasant side-effects.
‘Oral iron supplements are often poorly absorbed. Three-quarters of women experience gastrointestinal side-effects such as pain, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea and around 40 per cent regularly skip doses of their oral iron medication, or stop taking it all together.’
He adds: ‘The problem is that conventional iron supplements start oxidising and forming free radicals in the stomach, which is why you get the side-effects. It’s rusting, if you like, and the iron isn’t being absorbed.’