How Much Iron do You Need?
|Children, 1-10 years
|Teen and adult females
Babies store iron from their mother's blood while they are in the womb. Babies born
prematurely need extra iron because they do not have enough time in the womb to develop
sufficient iron stores.
Term babies are born with a large reserve of iron, which should last at least six months. If
baby does not receive any extra dietary iron, these iron stores get used up. This is why
formula-fed babies should receive an iron-fortified formula, beginning at birth or at least
within the first few months afterwards. Human milk contains relatively small amounts of
iron, but it is very well absorbed. So breastfed babies rarely need iron supplements.
Between six months and one year, baby's mother-provided iron stores may run out. For
this reason, your doctor may check your infant's hemoglobin levels around the nine and
twelve month checkup, especially if your doctor suspects anemia by baby's dietary history or
if baby appears pale.
Toddlers, ages one to three, with their finicky eating habits, may also be prone to iron
Preschoolers and school-age children, ages three to eleven, are not likely to become iron
deficient for two reasons: they are not growing as rapidly as they did in infancy and they tend
to eat more iron-rich foods, such as hamburgers.
Adolescents need more iron because they are going through a period of rapid growth,
increasing their need for all nutrients.
Teenage girls and women of child-bearing age need approximately five milligrams a day
more of dietary iron than men because of blood loss through menstruation.
Pregnancy increases the need for iron in order to adequately supply two growing bodies
with what they need. Also, blood volume increases during pregnancy, calling for more iron.
Athletes require increased amounts of iron to perform well during high endurance sports.
Athletes engaged in endurance training may become iron deficient due to increased
elimination of iron during prolonged vigorous exercise.
Vegans (strict vegetarians who eat no animal products) may be at risk for iron deficiency,
since plant foods are a less efficient source of iron than animal foods.
Iron deficiency among meat eaters is unusual. Most Americans eat too much meat.
Iron-deficiency anemia may be a subtle, hidden cause of poor school performance, since
iron deficiency has been shown to be linked to reduced ability to concentrate, decreased
performance on school and intelligence tests, and a general overall decrease in academic and
work performance. When anemia is corrected, academic performance is improved.
| * Average RDA for iron