Taking iron tablets 'can reduce tiredness by 50 per cent'
Women are three times more likely to report fatigue than men
16:20 GMT, 10 July 2012
Iron tablets can reduce tiredness by 50 per cent, according to researchers – even if you're not anaemic.
Taking supplements for 12 weeks reduced fatigue by almost a half in women who had low levels but were not deficient.
Fatigue is commonly reported by patients visiting their GP with nearly a third complaining of the symptom at appointments.
Unable to stay awake A new study suggests one reason could be low levels of iron
Scientists say women are three times more likely than men to report feelings of fatigue.
A randomised controlled trial involving 198 menstruating women between the ages of 18 and 50 years was conducted, with the women all iron deficient, non anaemic, with unexplained fatigue and ferritin levels below 50g/L. Ferritin is a protein that stores iron and controls its release into the body.
The trial was double-blinded, so neither the participants or the health care providers knew which group was receiving the supplement or placebo.
Results showed iron supplementation for 12 weeks decreased fatigue by almost 50 per cent, with a significant difference of 19 per cent compared with the placebo.
Positive effects on haemoglobin, ferritin and other blood levels were clear just six weeks after iron supplementation, the Canadian Medical Association Journal study also showed.
The researchers point out iron did not affect anxiety or depression scores or quality of life indicators, such as physical and psychological performance.
Dr Bernard Favrat, of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, said: 'We found that iron supplementation for 12 weeks decreased fatigue by almost 50 per cent from baseline, a significant difference of 19 per cent compared with placebo, in menstruating iron-deficient nonanaemic women with unexplained fatigue and ferritin levels below 50g/L.
'Iron deficiency may be an under-recognised cause of fatigue in women of child-bearing age.
'If fatigue is not due to secondary causes, the identification of iron deficiency as a potential cause may prevent inappropriate attribution of symptoms to emotional causes or life stressors, thereby reducing the unnecessary use of health care resources, including inappropriate pharmacologic treatments.'