In a recent study published in CMAJ it was found that iron supplements
help reduce fatigue in women who are low in iron but not anemic.
"We found that iron supplementation for 12 weeks decreased fatigue
by almost 50% from baseline, a significant difference of 19% compared
with placebo, in menstruating iron-deficient nonanemic women with
unexplained fatigue and ferritin levels below 50 μg/L," writes Dr.
Bernard Favrat, Department of Ambulatory Care and Community Medicine,
University of Lausanne, Switzerland, with coauthors.
The study, a randomized controlled trial involving 198 menstruating
women between the ages of 18 and 50 years, included daily oral
supplements of 80 mg of prolonged-release ferrous sulfate as well as
placebo. The trial was double-blinded, meaning neither the participants
nor the health care providers knew which group was receiving the
supplement versus placebo.
Fatigue is common in patients in primary care practices, with 14% to
27% suffering from fatigue and 1% to 2% of visits specifically for
fatigue. Women are three times more likely than men to report fatigue.
Positive effects on hemoglobin, ferritin and other blood levels were
evident as early as six weeks after iron supplementation.
The authors note that iron did not affect anxiety or depression
scores or quality-of-life indicators such as physical and psychological
"Iron deficiency may be an under-recognized cause of fatigue in
women of child-bearing age," write the authors. "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," conclude the authors.