Iron deficiency is still the most common nutritional deficiency in Australia, especially among children and women of childbearing age where it can lead to iron-deficiency anaemia, a serious condition where red blood cell production falls.
If dietary iron requirements are not met, the body's iron stores gradually run down.
Iron is an important dietary mineral involved in various bodily functions. Iron is part of haemoglobin, the red pigment in the blood that carries oxygen from the lungs throughout the body, and myoglobin that transports oxygen in the muscles. Iron deficiency means less oxygen is delivered to the cells leading to fatigue, tiredness and decreased immunity.
High-risk groups include menstruating women, pregnant women, babies and toddlers, teenage girls and female athletes. Indigenous Australians, refugees and recent immigrants from developing countries, vegans and vegetarians, people who repeatedly crash diet, and hospitalised or institutionalised patients are also at risk.
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* Warning: Keeping the correct amount of iron stored in your body is a balancing act - too little iron can interfere with your vital functions and lead to anaemia; too much iron can lead to toxicity. Iron overdose is poisoning that occurs when an excessive amount of iron supplements are taken.