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Iron supplements: All you need to know

A lady pouring her liquid supplement onto a spoon.
Find out about the different types of iron supplements. Why do we need them and what are the benefits of an iron supplement?

Iron isn’t just good for you. As the mineral responsible for healthy blood production, it’s essential for your basic bodily functions.

From oxygen transportation to cell function and a healthy immune system, iron is a vital element of your basic dietary requirements.1

A healthy diet is the best way to maintain iron levels naturally, but sometimes a boost is needed. That’s where taking an iron supplement could help.

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Benefits of iron – why do we need it?

Iron is needed to make haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen around the body.

When our iron levels slump, we can feel weak, tired and lethargic.

Iron deficiency anaemia is a condition that can happen when our iron levels are significantly depleted.

This can be due to insufficient intake, or excessive loss of iron. If you think you may have signs of iron deficiency always seek advice from your doctor in the first instance.

How much iron do I need?

The average male adult (age 19-50) typically needs 8.7mg iron each day.

For women in the same age range, the recommended daily intake is 14.8mg.

8.7mg/day is the recommended level for women over 50.2

Foods high in iron

Learn all about the best food sources of iron and how you can get enough of it.

How to choose the best iron supplements

It’s not always possible to maintain healthy iron levels simply by following an iron-rich diet.

Sometimes our bodies need a boost and that’s where iron supplements can be valuable. They can particularly help if an iron deficiency is something that you need to manage.

Iron supplements come in a wide range of formats (liquid iron, tablets, powder and drinks.) So, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to choosing the best option for you.

Always take advice from a GP, registered dietician or health professional before giving iron supplements to children.

And if you suspect you have an iron deficiency, talk to your GP as it could be a sign of something that needs further investigation.

The best iron supplements

Our bodies depend on iron. Without it, you can feel tired, sluggish and lethargic.

If you’re experiencing a deficiency, iron supplements can help replenish your iron levels. Iron supplements are many and varied and there’s a supplement to suit everyone.

However, if you suspect you have an iron deficiency, you should always first take advice from a GP, registered dietician or health professional.

What are the side effects of taking too much iron?

Iron is typically safe to take in regular quantities.

Taking too much (doses over 20mg) can result in side effects including stomach upset and constipation, vomiting or nausea.

The NHS advises taking no more than 17 mg/day unless under medical advice.3

How quickly do liquid iron supplements work?

Compared to iron tablets, a liquid iron supplement is easily absorbed into our blood stream and gets to work quickly.

As the digestive system doesn’t have to work overtime to break a tablet down, a liquid iron supplement can be easier to absorb.

Side effects of liquid iron supplements

As a liquid iron supplement typically delivers a fast release dose of the mineral, it can sometimes cause side effects, such as constipation.

There’s also evidence to suggest that they may blacken or stain teeth.4

It means you’ll need to test and research to find the most suitable supplement for your needs.

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: 4 July 2022

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