Why Do Most Vitamins Not Contain Iron?

Orange fruit with vitamin c tablet
Vitamin C tablets. (Image: Apatsara/iStock/Getty Images)

Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficit in the world, according to the National Institutes of Health. With so many people suffering from lack of iron in the diet, you may be surprised to find that many multivitamin products don't contain iron. While iron is critical to your good health, vitamin makers often leave iron out of these products to reduce the risk of overdose or accidental poisoning.

Benefits

Iron helps transport oxygen through the bloodstream, and is critical to healthy cell growth and repair. A lack of iron can lead to fatigue and weakness, along with a general sense of malaise. Insufficient iron also lowers your body's immunity levels, making you more susceptible to illness.

Sources

Both plant and animal food sources contain iron, making it possible for healthy individuals to consume sufficient amounts of iron from the diet alone. Animal-based sources include red meat, fish and poultry. Plant-based sources include legumes, beans, oatmeal and spinach. According to the NIH, iron from animal sources tends to be absorbed more easily into the bloodstream than plant-based iron.

Amounts

According to the NIH, infants up to one year of age require no more than 11 milligrams of iron each day, while children from age 1 to age 3 need 7 milligrams daily. Those between 4 and 8 years require 10 milligrams, while kids from 9 to 13 require 8 milligrams of iron.

Teen boys aged 14 to 18 require 11 milligrams, while girls in this age bracket need 15 milligrams. Men from 19 to 50 require 8 milligrams daily, as do both men and women over the age of 50. Women between the ages of 19 and 50 require 18 milligrams daily, except for pregnant women, who need 27 milligrams each day.

Risks

One of the primary reasons that many vitamins don't contain iron is that a large percentage of the population gets sufficient iron from a healthy diet. According to the North Dakota State University Extension, men and post-menopausal women typically don't need iron supplements. With the exception of anemic individuals and younger women, few groups are vulnerable to lack of iron.

In addition, iron overdose represents the number one cause of accidental poisoning for young children, according to the NDSU Extension. Doses as low as 200 milligrams of iron can kill a young child. Eliminating iron from multivitamin supplements reduces the chance that kids will suffer from an overdose.

Considerations

According to the Medill School at Northwestern University, people with very low iron levels, or those who have trouble absorbing iron from supplements should consume iron along with Vitamin C. Vitamin C can improve absorption of iron, and help your body retain a greater percentage of the iron in your multivitamin or supplement.

At the same time, iron may interfere with the absorption of calcium at times, so calcium and iron supplements should be taken separately.

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