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is there iron in multivitamins

Iron in multivitamins: What you need to know

23 Nov 2022 • 5 min read

A daily multivitamin can feel like a reliable way to get a balanced dose of a bunch of vital nutrients. But don’t assume there’s iron in multivitamins. It’s not always the case.

In this post, we delve into the role of iron to help you understand how much your body might need. We’ll also consider the various sources of this nutrient to help you decide whether a multivitamin with iron might be the right option for you.

Why do you need iron?

Iron has an important role in making red blood cells that are fit and fuelled to fulfil the duty of transporting oxygen around your body.1  

But how exactly does the mineral contribute to this process? In simple terms, iron helps make haemoglobin – a protein present in red blood cells.2 This means your body needs the right supply of iron to make sure your red blood cells are working optimally.

Did you know the amount of oxygen that's delivered to your tissues and organs depends on the amount of red blood cells you have and how productively these cells work.? 3 In simple terms, if you don’t have sufficient iron, you may not produce enough haemoglobin. This could lead to parts of your body struggling to get a good supply of oxygen.4

Consequently, if your iron levels slip too low, it can have a notiecable impact on many aspects of your wellness. For example, your energy levels and your ability to fight off infections can be affected. It’s also important for maintaining healthy cells, skin, hair, and nails.5

Summary

  • Iron has an important role in the production of healthy red blood cells
  • These cells transport oxygen around your body
  • Being low in iron could cause you to have lower-than-normal levels of haemoglobin
  • This may mean your body doesn’t get the oxygen it needs to work effectively

Where can you get iron?

Your body can’t make iron, so you have to get it from food or nutritional supplements.

Food sources of iron

Here are some iron-rich foods you could include in your daily diet:

  • Lean red meat
  • Beans (e.g. red kidney beans, edamame beans and chickpeas)
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Fortified breakfast cereals and bread
  • Soybean flour

Summary

  • Iron is naturally present in a range of foods
  • Adding a side of green, leafy vegetables is a great way to add iron to your meals
  • Dried fruit and nuts make an iron-rich snack
  • You could also try iron-fortified food products and supplements

Iron-rich recipes

If you're looking to boost your intake of iron in your diet, check out these two iron packed recipes to help with foods high in iron.

How much iron do you need?

Your age and gender have important influences on how much iron you need. Here’s a summary:6

  Age Daily recommended iron intake (mg)
Infants

0-3 months

1.7
4-6 months 4.3
7-12 months 7.8
Children 1-3 years 6.9
4-6 years 6.1
7-10 years 8.7
Teenagers 11-18 years

Female: 14.8
Male: 11.3

Adults 19-50 years

Female: 14.8
Male: 8.7

50+ years 8.7

 

How much iron is safe per day?

NHS sources suggest 17mg or less a day of iron in supplements is unlikely to trigger any harmful impacts.7

Taking a dose of more than 20mg of iron, however, can lead to side effects. These include constipation, stomach pain, nausea and sickness.8

Extremely high doses of iron can have much more serious consequences, so always keep to the recommended dose.

Summary

  • Iron is typically safe to take in regular quantities
  • Your iron requirement will vary depending on age and gender
  • Taking too much (doses over 20mg) can result in side effects
  • The NHS advises taking no more than 17 mg/day unless under medical advice

Is taking iron vitamins good for you?

When it comes to nutrients, iron is one of the most important to the healthy functioning of your body. But it’s also surprisingly common for people to be deficient in this vital mineral.

Most people can get the iron they need from what they eat. But if you’re finding it difficult to get the iron you need from food, taking vitamins with iron could be a helpful way to bolster the levels in your body.

Certain groups are particularly prone to suffering with low iron and may benefit from a supplement. Your risk of iron deficiency can increase due to three factors:

  • Age: Teenage and adult females under 50 are most likely to benefit from more iron.
  • Diet: Do you have a diet that’s low in iron? For example, it can be more difficult to include plentiful sources of iron in vegetarian and vegan diets.
  • Gender: Women are significantly more likely to be deficient in iron than men. In particular, females who have heavy periods and pregnant women.9

Why is replacing this missing iron so important? If your body's iron stores become too low, it can cause pale skin, low energy, tiredness, shortness of breath and heart palpitations.10  These could also be symptoms of iron-deficiency anaemia.

If you suspect you have anaemia, it’s important first to get a diagnosis from a doctor and follow medical advice on which supplements are most suitable for you.

Summary

  • An iron deficiency can make you feel tired and short of breath
  • Your skin may also look pale
  • Taking vitamins with iron can help to restore iron levels
  • Your age, diet or gender may make you more prone to iron deficiency

What vitamin is high in iron?

If you’re looking to increase your iron levels, there are a selection of oral iron-only supplements available. They most commonly contain ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulfate and ferrous gluconate.

Before using an iron-only supplement, check the ingredients of any multivitamins you’re also taking to ensure you’re not doubling up on this mineral.

Summary

  • Common iron-only supplements include ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulfate and ferrous gluconate
  • Be conscious of iron you could be receiving from other sources too. For example, multivitamin and iron tablets

Do multivitamins have iron in them?

There are plenty of multivitamins without iron available. And when you find vitamins with iron, the amount of the mineral in them can vary significantly.

The complication with including iron in generic multivitamins is not everyone needs the same amount of this nutrient. As a result, it’s most often found in supplements specifically formulated for a defined group of people.

For example, a children’s multivitamin with iron will contain a low dose of the mineral. In contrast, a supplement formulated specifically for women will provide a much higher dose of iron.

Summary

  • There are many multivitamins without iron
  • The amount of iron in multivitamins varies to reflect the nutritional needs of the particular group of people they’re targeted at
  • For example, multivitamins for men and children typically contain lower iron levels than those for women

What’s the best multivitamin with iron for you?

The exact iron content of a multivitamin will vary significantly between individual products and brands. Taking a specific multivitamin to match your gender and age can help to ensure you’re getting the most appropriate dose of this nutrient.

  1. Kids multivitamin with iron

Gummies and chewable tablets are a popular choice of kids vitamins with iron. Alternatively, some drinkable effervescent supplements for children also contain iron, offering an alternative to tablets.

Holland & Barrett PreVites with Iron Chewables - 250 Tablets

  • Delicious orange flavoured multivitamin chewable with iron
  • Iron contributes to reduction of tiredness and fatigue
  • Suitable for vegetarians

Vitaboost Kids Multivitamin Effervescent - 20 Tablets

  • Contains a specially-selected variety of vitamins and minerals to support your child’s overall health
  • Dissolvable effervescent tablets with no added sugar
  • Suitable for vegetarians

2. Multivitamins for teens

Iron needs increase dramatically during adolescence, particularly for girls.11 This has led to the emergence of some teen specific multivitamins with iron.

Vitabiotics Wellteen Her Plus - 56 Tablets

  • Developed especially for teenagers and young women aged 13-19 years
  • Wellteen Her Plus is a carefully balanced formula to help maintain vitality and wellness
  • Daily multivitamin providing a comprehensive range of vitamins, minerals and botanical extracts

Holland & Barrett Mega VitaMin Teens - 30 Capsules

  • Blend of essential vitamins and minerals
  • Premium performance formula specific for teens
  • Easy to swallow coated tablets suitable for vegetarians

3. Multivitamins for pregnant women

During pregnancy the female body works overtime to supply blood and oxygen to the growing foetus. This can be a trigger for iron deficiency anaemia. The simplest way to make sure you’re getting the right dose of iron is to look for a specifically formulated pregnancy multivitamin.

Holland & Barret New Mum - 30 Tablets + 30 Capsules

  • H&B Pregnancy New Mum provides expert support following the birth of your baby
  • Iron can help contribute to reduction of tiredness when your sleep pattern may be disrupted
  • Will help replenish nutrients following the birth of your baby

Vitabiotics Pregnacare Original - 30 Tablets

  • Expert nutrition through all of pregnancy
  • Colourful balance of 19 vitamins and minerals
  • Easy to swallow tablets

4. Multivitamins and iron supplements for women

As women have different iron needs to men, particularly pre-menopause, look out for female-specific multivitamin formulations that tend to contain more iron.

Vitabiotics Wellwoman - 30 Capsules

  • Developed especially for women
  • Helps to maintain health, vitality and wellbeing
  • Contains a wide spectrum of micronutrients for all-round nutritional support

Holland & Barrett Ultra Woman Daily Multi - 30 Caplets

  • Daily multi high potency premium formula for women
  • Contains calcium, vitamin D, copper, selenium, zinc among other essential vitamins and minerals
  • Helps maintain normal bones and muscle function

5. Multivitamins and iron supplements for older women

The high iron content in more generic female vitamins may be less suitable for women post-menopause. There are multivitamins for more mature women that adjust the iron intake to a more appropriate level.

Vitabiotics Wellwoman 50+ - 30 Tablets

  • Developed for women aged 50 and above
  • Helps maintain health and vitality, supporting the brain, heart and eyes
  • Suitable for vegetarians

Nature's Way Alive! Women's 50+ Multi-Vitamin - 30 Tablets

  • Specially designed for women aged 50+
  • Daily multivitamin and mineral
  • Contributes to normal energy release

6. Multivitamins for men

Many male-specific multivitamin capsules don’t contain iron, probably due to deficiency being less prevalent in men. So, if you’re male and this mineral is a priority for you, you might need to look closely at the ingredients to check iron is included.

Vitabiotics Wellman - 30 Tablets

  • Developed especially for men
  • Helps maintain health, vitality and wellbeing
  • Daily multivitamin providing a wide range of nutrients

Nature's Way Alive! Men's Energy Multi-Vitamin - 30 Tablets

  • Specially designed for men
  • Daily multivitamin and mineral
  • Contributes to normal energy release

Summary

  • The iron content in multivitamins varies significantly
  • This is down to the impact of age and gender on your iron needs
  • The easiest option is to look for a multivitamin that’s formulated for your age and gender
  • Our ’how to choose the right multivitamin for you’ post may make interesting additional reading

Conclusion: Why choose a multivitamin with iron

Our bodies depend on iron. If you don’t get enough, you can feel tired, sluggish and lethargic. If you’re unsure whether you’re getting the iron you need from your diet, a multivitamin with iron could help. But as individual iron needs vary considerably, make sure you’re taking the right dose for you. Also, don’t assume all multivitamins contain iron as this isn’t the case. 

And finally, if you suspect you have an iron deficiency, talk to your GP for advice on the best way for you to manage this.

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 13 May 2021

donia-hilal

Donia Hilal

Author

Nutritionist

Joined Holland & Barrett: January 2018

Bsc in Nutrition, Registered Associate Nutritionist and Certification in Pre and Post Natal Nutrition

Donia started her career as a freelance nutritionist, later she joined Nestle as their Market Nutritionist to help support their healthier product range, before joining the team at Holland & Barrett in January 2018.

Donia has over 6 years experience as a Nutritionist and also works with clients on a one to one basis to support their goals which include weight loss, prenatal and postnatal nutrition and children’s health.

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