Life Extension Update
Friday, July 13, 2012. The results of a trial described online on July 9 in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) reveal a significant benefit for iron supplements in iron-deficient (but nonanemic) premenopausal women who experienced fatigue. Reduced iron levels are common among women of childbearing age; however, consuming too much iron increases free radical damage, which has been linked to a number of diseases.
Dr Bernard Favrat of the Department of Ambulatory Care and Community Medicine at the University of Lausanne and his associates enrolled 198 women aged 18 to 53 for the current double-blinded, randomized trial. Participants were limited to those who had deficient serum ferritin levels of less than 50 micrograms per liter and hemoglobin levels above 12 grams per deciliter. Subjects were divided to receive oral prolonged-release ferrous sulfate containing 80 milligrams elemental iron or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. Fatigue was evaluated at the beginning and end of the study, and blood samples were analyzed for hemoglobin, ferritin and other factors at baseline and at 6 and 12 weeks.
Hemoglobin, ferritin, and other factors increased after 6 weeks among women who received iron and continued to be improved at 12 weeks, in contrast with the placebo group, for whom some values declined by the end of the study. "We found that iron supplementation for 12 weeks decreased fatigue by almost 59% from baseline, a significant difference of 19% compared with placebo, in menstruating iron-deficient nonanemic women with unexplained fatigue and ferritin levels below 50 micrograms per liter," the authors report.
"Iron deficiency may be an under-recognized cause of fatigue in women of child-bearing age," they write. "If fatigue is not due to secondary causes, the identification of iron deficiency as a potential cause may prevent inappropriate attribution of symptoms to putative emotional causes or life stressors, thereby reducing the unnecessary use of health care resources, including inappropriate pharmacologic treatments."
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