Iron and vitamin B12 are essential nutrients. They help with oxygen delivery to cells, increase immunity and improve energy and strength. Deficiencies can lead to a number of problems and might require you to take supplements. Taking supplements if you have a deficiency won't hurt you. If you're not sure if you need them, talk to your doctor or a dietitian.
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin. This means it's not stored in the body and you must consume it every day. If you take in too much of it, your body will simply dispose of the excess in your urine. Strict vegans who eat no animal products whatsoever might need to take supplements on a regular basis. Adults need 2.4 mcg of B12 per day.
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Taking in too much iron can be dangerous. The danger is greater for big dosages taken in at once rather than over time. Children are at a greater risk for iron poisoning. According to the Colorado State University Extension Safefood Information Network, iron poisoning is a major cause of death for children under 6 years of age. In children, taking too much iron can cause liver damage, gastrointestinal bleeding and heart failure. In adults, too much iron can increase the risk of heart disease and other health problems. To prevent problems, always talk to your doctor before taking iron supplements. Women 19 to 50 years of age need 18 mg of iron per day. Men over 19 need 8 mg per day.
Who Is At Risk
A disease called hemochromatosis causes the body to overload on iron. If you have the disease but haven't been diagnosed, you might be at risk even if you take just small amounts of iron. People with certain medical conditions or taking certain medications should not take any iron supplements unless under medical supervision. Iron also decreases the absorption of certain drugs, such as medications to treat osteoporosis and tetracyclines antibiotics.
Both iron and vitamin B12 come from similar sources, such as dairy products, meat and eggs. Because of this, it's not rare to experience a deficiency of both at the same time, according to registered dietitian Lisa Cicciarello. Both B12 and iron deficiencies can result in anemia, so you might need to take supplements to deal with the problem. A simple blood test can help you determine which type of anemia you have and how much you need to take, so you don't risk taking too much.
- Labs Tests Online: Vitamin B12 & Folate
- Colorado State University Extension: Iron Toxicity in Children
- Better Health Channel: Iron Explained
- MayoClinic.com: Vitamin B12
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Iron; Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD; August 2009
- Net Wellness; B12 and Iron Deficiency; Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD; August 2007