Should vegetarians be given iron supplementation to prevent iron deficiency anemia?

Updated: Sep 07, 2019
  • Author: James L Harper, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Answer

Iron supplementation in populations living on a largely vegetarian diet is advisable because of the lower bioavailability of inorganic iron than heme iron.

The addition of iron to basic foodstuffs in affluent nations where meat is an important part of the diet is of questionable value and may be harmful. The gene for familial hemochromatosis (HFe gene) is prevalent (8% of the US white population). Excess body iron is postulated to be important in the etiology of coronary artery disease, strokes, certain carcinomas, and neurodegenerative disorders because iron is important in free radical formation.


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