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Can Iron Deficiency Affect Weight Loss?

author image Adam Cloe Ph.D./M.D.
Adam Cloe has been published in various scientific journals, including the "Journal of Biochemistry." He is currently a pathology resident at the University of Chicago. Cloe holds a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Boston University, a M.D. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago.
Can Iron Deficiency Affect Weight Loss?
A patient talking to a health practitioner in an office. Photo Credit: michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images

Your body needs small amounts of many different minerals to work properly. A lack of iron in your body can cause an iron deficiency, which can cause you to lose your appetite. However, low iron levels can also leave you feeling fatigued, making it harder for you to burn calories through exercise, hampering weight loss.

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Iron and the Body

Iron is a mineral that is needed in small quantities for your body to function properly. One of the most important roles of iron in the body is to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein found in red blood cells. If you do not get enough iron in your diet, you will develop an iron-deficiency anemia, which is marked by a lack of red blood cells due to an inability to make enough red blood cells to meet your needs.

Iron Deficiency and Eating

When you do not have enough iron in your body, you will develop a number of different symptoms. You may find that your appetite is decreased, which can lead to unexplained weight loss. Patients with an iron deficiency also may have a craving for unusual foods, also known as pica. Finally, an iron deficiency can make eating difficult, as you may develop sores around your mouth and have trouble swallowing.

Iron Deficiency and Exercise

Although a lack of iron may cause you to eat less, it can also cause you to burn fewer calories. When you have iron deficiency anemia, you have less energy because your body does not make enough red blood cells. This can make it harder for you to exercise and stay physically active due to chronic fatigue. A lack of exercise can cause you to burn fewer calories, making it harder for you to lose weight.


A lack of iron in your body may promote weight loss, due to a decreased appetite, but it can also make it harder to lose weight. If you are concerned about low iron levels, talk to your doctor. An iron deficiency can be serious but you should not take iron supplements without being diagnosed with a deficiency. Too much iron can cause this mineral to build up in your body and damage your organs.

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