Iron Supplement Review

Meet Our Experts
Cleveland Clinic, ranked as one of the nation’s best hospitals overall (4th in the country) by U.S. News & World Report 2013-14, is proud to offer expert advice and guidance to help you on your journey to wellness.
Meet Our Experts
  Evaluated for:
Effectiveness Rating Effectiveness Rating
Iron supplementation in setting of iron deficiency anemia
+3 (Strong Evidence)
Casual use (in a daily multivitamin)
-1 (Possibly Ineffective)


  • Iron is an essential mineral for oxygen transport, metabolism, and neurotransmitter synthesis. When dietary sources are abundant, the body stores extra iron for later use, when food sources may be inefficient. There are two forms of dietary iron. “Heme” iron, from meat, fish, and poultry, is somewhat easily absorbed. “Non-heme,” iron, also called elemental iron, is found mainly in beans and grains, as well as dried fruit, leafy greens, asparagus, strawberries, and nuts. With the primary exception of women with heavy menstrual periods and pregnant women, most people get sufficient iron from their diets.
  • Eating a vegan or ovolactovegetarian diet increases the risk of developing an iron deficiency. Symptoms of a deficiency may include weakness, exhaustion, shortness of breath, dizziness, and even cravings for ice or clay. If a patient does develop an iron deficiency for any reason, symptoms usually improve rapidly once iron supplementation begins.


  • Certain kinds of iron can cause gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, vomiting, heartburn, abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea. Luckily, there are other kinds that are better tolerated.
  • Too much iron, or “iron overload,” can be very dangerous. Iron overload, the hallmark of a genetic disease called hemochromatosis, interferes with liver function and causes weakness, skin darkening, diabetes, joint pain, sexual difficulties, and abnormal heart rhythms. It can cause pancreatic and/or liver damage. Iron overload can also develop in individuals with blood disorders whose treatment requires multiple, frequent blood transfusions.

In general, unless under a doctor’s care, only women with regular periods should take over-the-counter multivitamins that contain even small amounts of iron.

DOSAGE:17 mg a day is the usual dosage, but discuss its use with your physician.

CONCLUSION:We conclude that iron is a safe and effective supplement for documented iron deficiency that has been diagnosed by a medical professional. This is the one and only reason to take high-dose supplemental iron. With the exception of people eating a vegan or ovolactovegetarian diet and women with heavy menstrual periods, iron supplementation is unnecessary, and may be dangerous.

“Iron.” LLC, 2013. 30 March 2013
“Iron.” Natural Standard –The Authority on Integrative Medicine. Natural Standard, 2013.
“Iron.” Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Therapeutic Research Faculty, 2013. 8 November 2013.
Jomova, K., Valko, M. et al. Advances in metal-induced oxidative stress and human disease. Toxicology (2011) 283: 65-87
Parisi, P. et al. Could treatment of iron deficiency both improve ADHD and reduce cardiovascular risk during treatment with ADHD drugs?. Medical Hypotheses (2012) 1-3
Mascitelli, L., Goldstein, M.R. et al. Inhibition of iron absorption by polyphenols as an anti-cancer mechanism. Q J Med (2011) 104: 459-461
Hornyak, M. et al. Investigating the response to intravenous iron in restless legs syndrome: An observational study. Sleep Medicine (2012) 1-4
Pra, D. et al. Iron and genome stability: An update. Mutation Research (2012) 733: 92-99

Untitled Document
Get Your Daily Tip
Start living healthier with our FREE daily wellness tips!