What Can Iron Supplements Do for Men?
One of the most abundant minerals on earth, iron plays a significant role in the body's functionality. Iron's chief function is to help deliver oxygen from the lungs to cells. Once the oxygen is delivered, iron helps red blood cells expel waste, carbon dioxide, through the lungs in an exhale. But iron's work doesn't stop here. It works in a variety of bodily chemical reactions and has been used to treat conditions ranging from Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to the inability to get pregnant.
Still, the supplementation of iron seems to be more popular for women given its ability to combat anemia caused by heavy menstrual periods and pregnancy. But should you be taking iron supplements as well?
According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), men are more at risk for a hereditary condition that causes excess iron to build up in the vital organs than women. This is due largely to a hereditary condition known as hemochromatosis. This condition causes the body to absorb and store more iron than is necessary. This build-up of excess iron can damage the body's organs. According to NDDIC, symptoms of hemochromatosis include:
- Liver disease
- Heart abnormalities
- Thyroid deficiency
Even for men without hemochromatosis, 1 of every 3 is predisposed to absorbing too much iron. This makes a diet high in iron-rich red meat, which is typical of the American male, somewhat dangerous.
The Need for Supplementation
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), men require much less iron during the course of their lifetime than women. While male and female infants need 11mg of iron each day, the number begins to diverge drastically entering adulthood—between the ages of 14 to 18, 11mg for males, 15mg for females; between the ages of 19 to 50, 8mg for males, 18mg for females.
Still, men can experience too little iron in the blood. According to the Iron Disorders Institute, this can be caused by a variety of conditions, which includes, but is not limited to, "cancer, hemorrhoids, diverticular disease...[and] bone marrow abnormalities."
According to the ODS, symptoms of an iron deficiency include:
- Decreased immune function
- Slow cognitive and social development during childhood
- Difficulty maintaining a consistent body temperature
- An inflamed tongue
The Bottom Line
Only a doctor can definitively conclude whether or not you have an iron deficiency and are in need of supplementing iron. If you or a loved one are experiencing the above symptoms, reach out to your physician promptly.
Iron Disorders Institute
Iron out-of Balance in Men
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC)
Office of Dietary Supplements
University of Maryland Medical Center: Iron
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