Nearly one in four American adolescent girls and young women may suffer from an underdiagnosed mineral deficiency that causes weariness, brain fog, and attention issues.
According to new research, which was the first to examine iron insufficiency in girls and young women and published in JAMA Networks, almost 40% of adolescent girls and young women in America have inadequate amounts of iron, a crucial element required to produce red blood cells.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a component of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provided the researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School with information on girls and women aged 12 to 21 collected during the previous 20 years for the study.
The team discovered that iron deficiency anemia affected 6% of the survey's sample. Angela Weyand, from the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor and the study's primary author, reveals she wasn't surprised by the results, as she frequently receives recommendations from pediatricians and family practitioners who worry that their patients may be iron deficient.
"I hypothesized that I was just seeing the tip of the iceberg and unfortunately that is true," says Weyand.
For women of reproductive age, the CDC advises a blood test for anemia every five to ten years; however, clinicians seldom perform an iron deficiency test. Weyand and her coworkers have yet to examine whether iron insufficiency has increased or remained high over the past 20 years.
Although a quarter of the females who hadn't begun their periods had iron deficiency, the results revealed that menstruation was a risk factor. According to Weyland, girls and women lose a lot of iron during heavy periods, but iron levels can still be reduced even when bleeding is within the usual range.
Weyland continues that because doctors sometimes check for anemia rather than ferritin levels, a blood protein that includes iron and is a sign of stored iron, those with low iron levels are frequently not identified.
What are some symptoms of iron deficiency?
A lack of iron causes iron deficiency, frequently brought on by blood loss or pregnancy, and is the leading cause of anemia. It is treated with iron supplements and by consuming meals high in iron.
Some main symptoms include:
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Pale skin
There are foods with high iron content, such as watercress, beans, fish, tofu, eggs, and dried fruit, which can help increase iron levels in your body.
Iron deficiency can also be treated by taking iron pills, and the NHS Inform claims drinking orange juice after taking the medication may aid in iron absorption.
- JAMA Network. Prevalence of Iron Deficiency and Iron-Deficiency Anemia in US Females Aged 12-21 Years, 2003-2020.
- Office on Women's Health. Iron-deficiency anemia.
- NHS Inform. Iron deficiency anaemia.