Iron supplements may benefit non-anemic women between ages 18 and 55 with unexplained fatigue. However, the effect may be restricted to women with low ferritin, a protein that stores iron and is found especially in the liver and spleen.
Researchers from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland gave 136 women either 80 milligrams a day of iron or a placebo for four weeks. The study shows the level of fatigue after one month decreased by 29 percent in the iron group compared to 13 percent in the placebo group. The difference in depression was not statistically different between the two groups, but a greater decrease in anxiety was observed in the iron group. Investigators found a significant response only in patients with a baseline ferritin concentration of 50 micrograms per liter.
Unexplained fatigue is common in young women and iron deficiency is highly prevalent among women of childbearing age. Previous studies show iron can reduce fatigue and add other health benefits. In adolescent females, iron supplements improved mood and the ability to concentrate in one study and verbal learning and memory in another study.