Published: Sep 27, 2016
Author: Georgia Marrion, BHSc(Comp med) AdvDipHSc(Nat) MHumNut
Iron is the most common type of nutritional deficiency in the world,1 and one in eight Australians are not consuming enough.2 But what does this important mineral do, and how can we ensure we are getting enough?
Iron is required for almost 200 biochemical reactions in the body, and is involved in many important functions including energy production, oxygen transport, immune activity and making hormones, neurotransmitters and DNA.3-5 So we need adequate levels to ensure optimal overall health.
It is perhaps surprising that a wide range of people have an increased need for iron, including vegetarians, menstruating or pregnant women, athletes, adolescents, the elderly, people with poor gut health and those taking certain medications (e.g. oral contraceptive pill, aspirin, proton pump inhibitors, steroids, antacids and anti-coagulants).3,5-7
Factors which will influence iron status in the body include the amount and type of iron in the diet and how much is being absorbed in the small intestine.6
There are two types of dietary iron, haem, found in meat products, and non-haem, mainly present in plant foods; the bioavailability (the amount able to be absorbed and used) of iron from these forms is quite different. While the absorption of haem iron is generally very good, less iron is absorbed from non-haem sources due to the influence of other common dietary substances which inhibit iron absorption (e.g. phytates, polyphenols and tannins) and because of its non-dissolvable structure.6,7
While regular iron intake in the diet is important to maintain adequate levels, when you are low in iron it can be difficult to consume enough to return iron stores to normal from the diet alone. This is why oral iron supplementation is commonly recommended to increase iron stores.8
However, common side effects associated with many forms of iron include nausea, indigestion, constipation and diarrhoea.3 This is because with many forms of iron, the chelate (iron and the substance it is attached to, necessary for absorption) breaks apart in the gastrointestinal tract, so most of the iron is not absorbed. This unabsorbed part may alter the gut lining and microflora (the mix of organisms which live in the gut).1,5
Ferrochel® (ferrous bisglycinate) is a patented chelated form of non-haem iron that passes through the stomach and small intestine without breaking apart.5 It has been shown to be more effectively absorbed than other types of iron chelate in healthy people with different iron levels.5
Several studies also demonstrated that this superior bioavailability occurred in the presence of substances common in the diet that normally inhibit non-haem iron absorption (i.e. polyphenols, phytates and tannins).5,9,10 Because of its enhanced absorption, it may be better tolerated and more effective at supporting nutritional dietary intake.
Speak to your healthcare practitioner for more information about looking after your health with an individualised treatment regimen that includes a combination of a balanced diet, high-quality supplementation and exercise.
To find a healthcare practitioner in your local area, use our Find a Practitioner service.
1. Pereira DIA, Couto Irving SS, Lomer MCE, et al. A rapid, simple questionnaire to assess GIT symptoms after oral ferrous sulphate supplementation. BMC Gastroenterol 2014;14:103.
2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Health Survey: Usual Nutrient Intakes, 2011-12. Viewed 25 August 2016, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.008~2011-12~Main%20Features~Iron~402
3. Clénin GE, Cordes M, Huber A, et al. Iron deficiency in sports – definition, influence on performance and therapy. Swiss Med Wkly 2015;145:w14196.
5. Fairweather-Tait SJ, Wawer A, Gillings R, et al. Iron status in the elderly. Mech Ageing Dev 2014;136-137(100):22-28.
5. Ashmead HD. The absorption and metabolism of iron amino acid chelate. Arch Latinoam Nutr 2001;1(Suppl 1):13-21.
6. Institute of Medicine (US) Panel on Micronutrients. Dietary reference intakes for vitamin A, vitamin K, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium and zinc, 2001. National Academies Press (US): Washington (DC).
7. Gulec S, Anderson GJ, Collins JF. Mechanistic and regulatory aspects of intestinal iron absorption. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol 2014;307(4):G397-G409.
8. Klöpfer K, Schmid P, Wuillemin WA, et al. Reference values for oral iron absorption of bivalent iron in healthy volunteers. Swiss Med Wkly 2015;145:w14063.
9. Layrisse M, Garcia-Casal MN, Solano L, et al. Bioavailability in humans from breakfasts enriched with iron bis-glycine chelate, phytates and polyphenols. J Nutr 2002;130;2195-2199.
10. Bovell-Benjamin AC, Viteri FE, Allen LH. Iron absorption from ferrous bisglycinate and ferric trisglycinate in whole maize is regulated by iron status. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:1563-1569.