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By dotFIT experts
on October 08, 2008
This formula considers the requirements of older individuals in helping to combat preventable diseases such as osteoporosis and heart disease. It contains optimal doses of folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Also included are bone-building nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin A (beta carotene) and even vitamin K. More...
By Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S. and Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.
on November 22, 2008
Because iron deficiency and anemia are relatively common, routine blood tests are used for diagnosis. However, recent research indicates that at least a third of those with very low iron reserves are likely to be missed by the typical sequence of blood tests and therefore go undiagnosed for some time. More...
By Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S. and Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.
on November 25, 2008
Currently, a fear of iron stems from a theory proposed in 1981 by Dr. Jerome Sullivan that iron accumulation in the body increases the risk for coronary heart disease. A quarter of a century later, Sullivan's theory remains unproved, and several studies have refuted the theory. More...

I am menopausal and wondering if I should take a vitamin containing iron since I do not have a menstrual cycle anymore.


Answer: The only way you will know for sure how much iron you’re getting and how much you need is to have your iron levels checked through the proper blood tests (see below for more on tests).

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of iron for a non-pregnant or lactating female between ages 31-50 is 18mg/day. From age 51 on, the RDA is reduced to 8mgs/day in order to account for exactly what you state: no menstrual cycle. Obviously all females don’t end their cycles at the same age, but this is a very close average.

We suggest you begin using our Over50MV multivitamin which contains the recommended amount of iron, 8mgs, for a female no longer menstruating. Keep in mind that iron deficiency, due to our society’s dramatic shift in food selection (fewer meats and other iron-containing foods) is a far greater problem than too much iron (see below for more on iron deficiency and overload).

For more info, please see the short articles below by Dr. Titchenal.

Iron level is important to good health
by Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S. and Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Certainly, when something is feared, it is easy to become irrational about it.

Currently, a fear of iron stems from a theory proposed in 1981 by Dr. Jerome Sullivan that iron accumulation in the body increases the risk for coronary heart disease. A quarter of a century later, Sullivan's theory remains unproved, and several studies have refuted the theory.


Should we fear iron?

Approximately one out of every 200 people carries a gene that can make them more susceptible to a condition called hemochromatosis, or iron overload disease. Too much iron for someone with this condition can lead to a variety of serious health problems.

In contrast to the fairly low prevalence of hemochromatosis, iron deficiency is one of the most common and serious nutrition problems in the world. Even in the U.S., the prevalence of iron deficiency anemia is reported to be as high as 29 percent among low-income women of childbearing age.


How does iron deficiency affect people?

Iron deficiency can cause a type of anemia that reduces the capacity of blood to deliver oxygen to cells throughout the body. This results in fatigue among other possible symptoms.

Not fully appreciated is the fact that iron deficiency, even without anemia, can have serious consequences. Potential effects include sleeping problems; depression; inability to think clearly; memory and learning problems; restless legs syndrome; ridged, flattened or "spooned" fingernails; hair thinning and loss; dizziness or vertigo; abnormal heart function; decreased immune function; inability to tolerate drugs normally; reduced ability to produce thyroid hormone; etc.

Bruce Ames, a highly respected researcher from the University of California-Berkeley, has recently expressed concerns that chronically low iron status could cause many health problems throughout the body. He is particularly concerned about impaired brain function and accelerated aging processes resulting from low iron status. Interestingly, iron deficiency can cause oxidative damage to cells, and so can iron excess.

Iron deficiency is especially common in adolescent and pre-menopausal women. Due to monthly blood losses, these women have iron needs about twice those of men their age. Men also can develop iron deficiency, especially athletes with a diet short on good iron sources.


Iron deficiency sometimes goes unseen 
by Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S. and Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.

Because iron deficiency and anemia are relatively common, routine blood tests are used for diagnosis. However, recent research indicates that at least a third of those with very low iron reserves are likely to be missed by the typical sequence of blood tests and therefore go undiagnosed for some time.

University of Hawaii graduate student Brian Hill reported these findings in April at the Annual College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Student Research Symposium. He analyzed blood data related to iron status from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Using blood values from greater than 13,000 people collected between 1976 and 1994, Hill extracted the data for people with iron deficiency based on clinically low levels of a blood component called serum ferritin. Among these men and women who were clearly iron deficient, Hill found that about 35 percent of them would have been missed using the most common clinical blood tests for iron status.


How is iron deficiency and anemia usually determined?

The most common blood tests for these conditions are hemoglobin and hematocrit.

Typically, if a person's blood values for these tests fall within the normal range for individuals thought to be healthy, iron status is considered to be normal.

Hill's analysis indicates that iron-related health problems of many people might go undiagnosed when more sensitive indicators of iron status are not measured. Adding serum ferritin to the testing procedure almost doubled the number of people diagnosed as iron deficient.


What level of serum ferritin is considered to be ideal?

The optimal level for serum ferritin is unknown. The clinical cutoff to indicate an iron deficiency is usually 11 to 15 micrograms per liter (mcg/L). However, physicians specializing in the treatment of restless legs syndrome consider serum ferritin below 50 mcg/L to be too low. In addition, British dermatology researchers treating people for certain types of hair thinning and hair loss consider ferritin below 70 to be an indicator for needed iron therapy.


What does a high ferritin level indicate?

High ferritin can indicate that there is a fair amount of iron stored in the body. It also can mean that a person is in an inflammatory state such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis. Recent research indicates that obese individuals are often in an inflammatory state and can have high ferritin levels even when iron deficient. Therefore additional blood tests are needed for those with inflammatory conditions. Extremely high ferritin levels can indicate iron overload disease.

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