Iron Deficiency in Women - A Worldwide Problem

Iron deficiency is one of the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world. It’s a major cause of anaemia and is more prevalent in developing countries.

Research indicates that approximately 80% of people in the world do not have enough iron in their bodies, and about 30% of the population suffers from anaemia due to prolonged deficiency,.

Now according to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is comparatively higher in women, especially those in the childbearing stage, with the disorder affecting 1 in 7 women worldwide.

While the deficiency in women is caused by various factors such as heavy menstruation, pregnancy, and breastfeeding, poor diet is the leading cause.

Iron Deficiency and Poor Diet

According to WHO, bad diet is one of the major causes of anemia in women.

Just like with other nutrients, women who eat a diet with little or no iron are at a high risk of becoming iron deficient. There are many reasons to this;


A vegetarian diet is one that excludes meat and sometimes other animal products. This is a diet that mainly consists of fruits, vegetables, seeds, grains, pulses, and nuts.

The problem with a vegetarian diet is that it consists of non-heme iron which is poorly absorbed in the body, unlike heme iron which is well-absorbed.

Statistics indicate that there are 140% more female vegetarians than males. This means that women who are vegetarian are more likely to become iron deficient than men.

Ignoring Rich Iron Sources such as Red Meat

Most women (like everyone else) tend to avoid red meat due to the health risks associated with this type of meat. Instead, they focus on eating fish, pork, poultry, and eggs.

Red meat is considered as one of the highest sources of iron and ignoring it only increases the risk of iron deficiency.

Adding red meat in the diet is therefore important to avoid the deficiency.

Consumption of Excessive Amounts of Caffeine

Caffeine interferes with iron absorption in the body.

One study has found that excessive consumption of coffee reduces iron absorption by as much as 50% while tea reduces its uptake by as much as 60%.

The tannins in both beverages adversely affect iron availability in the body by interfering with its absorption, causing a severe deficiency.

This means that women who drink excessive amounts of coffee/tea on a daily basis increase their risk becoming deficient in iron.

Restrictive Eating

Restrictive eating, under eating, and counting calories are some of the major causes of iron deficiency in women. This is because such practice limits the amount of nutrients and iron the body needs to function properly.

This practice is particularly common in women who are looking to lose weight or maintain a certain body weight.

Cultural Beliefs

There are some cultural groups that avoid iron-rich sources due to certain beliefs. Women in such cultures are often at a higher risk of getting severe deficiency as a result.

Treating Iron Deficiency in Women

Women suffering from this disorder as a result of a bad diet should consider following a healthy diet to avoid the many adverse health effects.

Severe iron deficiency has been found to lead to anaemia, heart failure, and enlarged heart muscle. In pregnant women, the disorder can lead to premature birth or low birth weight.

Eating a diet rich in both heme and non heme iron, increasing Vitamin C intake (Vitamin C improves iron absorption), and taking iron supplements can help restore iron levels in the body, not to mention reverse its effects.

Seek medical assistance if necessary.

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