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What is Iron Deficiency and Iron Deficiency Anaemia?

When your body does not have enough iron to meet its daily needs and it starts using its iron stores, you are suffering from iron deficiency (ID).1,2 When your body’s iron stores are depleted, less haemoglobin that carries oxygen to the rest of your body is available in red blood cells, which can result in iron deficiency anaemia (IDA).1,3

Why is iron important?

Iron mainly exists in complexes bound to proteins and enzymes.4,5 The majority of iron in the body is present in haemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body, which is required by your brain for concentration and by your muscles for physical energy.4,6,7 Iron is also needed to maintain a healthy immune system, helping you to fight off infections.3 Over time, ID can mean that your body makes fewer healthy red blood cells, reducing haemoglobin content, and resulting in IDA.5 Even mild to moderate IDA can impair cognitive function, ability to work, and the immune system.5

  1. Tussing-Humphreys L, Pustacioglu C, Nemeth E, Braunschweig C. Rethinking iron regulation and assessment in iron deficiency, anemia of chronic disease, and obesity: introducing hepcidin. J Acad Nutr Diet 2012;112(3):391-400.
  2. WHO Preventing and controlling iron deficiency anaemia through primary health care – A guide for health administrators and programme managers 1989.
  3. Beard JL. Iron biology in immune function, muscle metabolism and neuronal functioning. J Nutr 2001;131(2):568S-580S.
  4. Haas JD, Brownlie T. Iron deficiency and reduced work capacity: a critical review of the research to determine a causal relationship. J Nutr 2001;131(2):676S-690S.
  5. Abbaspour N, Hurrell R, Kelishadi R. Review on iron and its importance for human health. J Res Med Sci 2014;19(2):164-174.
  6. Lozoff B, Beard J, Connor J, Felt B, Georgieff M. Long-lasting neural and behavioural effects of iron-deficiency in infancy. Nutr Rev 2006;64(5 pt 2):S34-S91.
  7. Radlowski EC, Johnson RW. Perinatal iron deficiency and neurocognitive development. Front Hum Neurosci 2013;7:1-11.