Heath experts say that almost half of girls aged 11 to 18, along with more than a quarter of women who are of working age, have iron deficiencies. According to recent research, four out of five women said they had issues with extreme tiredness, while two thirds said they had experienced at least one period of exhaustion.
It is thought that many people could actually have an iron deficiency, as the mineral is necessary to help the blood transport oxygen around the body. Women are at greater risk than men of having a deficiency, because of monthly blood loss. However, people who avoid red meat, or who are vegetarian could also be at risk.
According to latest research, not only does iron deficiency lead to feelings of fatique, but it can also lead to long term hearing loss. Dr Hilary Jones said that tiredness was one of the most common issues patients went to their GP to talk about. However, by the time they decided to seek help, they could have been suffering from exhaustion for months.
He said that it could often be people who considered themselves very healthy who were most at risk of a deficiency, because they did not get their nutritional needs from their diet. The latest research follows earlier studies which have revealed that a third of female athletes are iron deficient and that more than half of runners are low in the mineral.
Many people have now cut out red meat, in favour of eating more chicken and fish, with women’s intake of red meat having dropped by 13 per cent over the last two years. Dr Jones said that some dietry changes, such as eating red meat could help. But, for many iron supplements were the only option.
However, because they are are hard to absorb, they can come with unpleasant side effects, meaning patients often miss doses because they can’t cope with pain, nausea, diarrhoea or constipation.