Iron: Addressing Deficiency or Excessive Intake on Omnivore or Plant-based Diets.

Page of quotes & links to articles on the nutrient of Iron and of how to prevent or address nutritional deficiencies or dangerous excess amounts; articles by doctors, dietitians and studies published in science journals; regards omnivores (meat-eaters), vegetarians and vegans.

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From the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “hemoglobin concentrations and the risk of iron deficiency anemia are SIMILAR for vegans compared with omnivores and other vegetarians. Vegans often consume large amounts of vitamin C–rich foods that markedly improve the absorption of the nonheme iron…” – http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/5/1627S.full

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From an article in ‘Permanente Journal’ co-authored by several medical doctors: “Plant-based foods that are rich in iron include kidney beans, black beans, soybeans, spinach, raisins, cashews, oatmeal, cabbage, and tomato juice. Iron stores may be lower in individuals who follow a plant-based diet and consume little or no animal products. However, the American Dietetic Association states that iron-deficiency anemia is RARE even in individuals who follow a plant-based diet…” excerpt from “Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets” at – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/

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Regards haem/heme iron (from eating animals) and coronary heart disease (CHD) the European Heart Journal states: “High dietary haem iron intake was associated with a 65% increase in CHD risk…” regards a study of 16,136 women.
Reference: “Dietary haem iron and coronary heart disease in women”, European Heart Journal, 2005 Feb;26(3):257-62; at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15618055

Iron-Nutritional-Deficiency-750w-v01-PNGn

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A 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association states: “Population-based studies have shown that vegetarians have lower body mass index than nonvegetarians, suggesting that vegetarian diet plans may be an approach for weight management…” Through an analysis of more than 13,000 people they found that “Mean intakes of fiber, vitamins A, C, and E, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, magnesium, and iron were higher for all vegetarians than for all nonvegetarians… These findings suggest that vegetarian diets are nutrient dense, consistent with dietary guidelines, and could be recommended for weight management without compromising diet quality.”
Reference: “A vegetarian dietary pattern as a nutrient-dense approach to weight management: an analysis of the national health and nutrition examination survey 1999-2004,” J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Jun;111(6):819-27. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2011.03.012; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21616194/

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A 2015 article by Dr Michael Greger M.D. is titled “The Safety of Heme vs. Non-Heme Iron.” The introduction states: “Heme iron, the type found predominantly in blood and muscle may increase the risk of cancer, stroke, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome…” see the clip on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cq84RZVR_C0 The text transcript is at https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-safety-of-heme-vs-non-heme-iron/

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American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “An appropriately planned well-balanced vegetarian diet is compatible with an adequate iron status. Although the iron stores of vegetarians may be reduced, the incidence of iron-deficiency anemia in vegetarians is not significantly different from that in omnivores…”
Reference: “Iron status of vegetarians”, Am J Clin Nutr., 1994 May; 59(5 Suppl):1233S-1237S; at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8172127

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From “Iron: A Vegan Nutrition Primer” by a Registered Dietician – Excerpt: “Getting plenty of iron on a vegan diet is easy. Plant foods can be among the richest sources of this nutrient. For example, ½ cup of cooked lentils has nearly twice the iron as four ounces of beef—a food generally thought of as an iron superstar. It’s not surprising that vegans and vegetarians often consume more iron than meat-eaters…” – http://www.theveganrd.com/vegan-nutrition-primers/iron-a-vegan-nutrition-primer

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In an article titled “Plant versus Animal Iron” Dr Michael Greger MD explains “It is commonly thought that those who eat plant-based diets may be more prone to iron deficiency, but it turns out that they’re no more likely to suffer from iron deficiency anemia than anybody else. This may be because not only do those eating meat-free diets tend to get more fiber, magnesium, and vitamins like A, C, and E, but they also get more iron…
iron intake from meat is associated with significantly higher risk for heart disease. This is thought to be because iron can act as a pro-oxidant, contributing to the development of atherosclerosis by oxidizing cholesterol with free radicals. The risk has been quantified as a 27% increase in coronary heart disease risk for every 1 milligram of heme iron consumed daily.
The same has been found for stroke risk… Researchers found that the intake of meat (heme) iron, but not plant (non-heme) iron, was associated with an increased risk of stroke.
The researchers also found that higher intake of heme iron – but not total or plant (non-heme) iron – was significantly associated with greater risk for type 2 diabetes. There may be a 16% increase in risk for type 2 diabetes for every 1 milligram of heme iron consumed daily.
The same has also been found for cancer, with up to 12% increased risk for every milligram of daily heme iron exposure
Taking into account our leading killers – heart disease, cancer, and diabetes – the healthiest source of iron appears to be non-heme iron, found naturally in abundance in whole grains, beans, split peas, chickpeas, lentils, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, and seeds…”
For the full article https://nutritionfacts.org/2017/06/15/plant-versus-animal-iron/

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From the introduction of a lengthy article about iron by registered dietitian Jack Norris RD:
You do not need to worry about iron if you are otherwise healthy and eat a varied vegetarian or vegan diet. If you think your iron stores might be low, you can increase iron absorption by:
– Adding a source of vitamin C at meals (see Table 2 of good vitamin C sources below).
– Avoiding tea and coffee at meals.
– Increasing legume (peanuts, beans, lentils, peas) intake.
– Cooking foods (especially water based acidic foods like tomato sauce) in cast iron skillets.
If your concerns persist, you should have a doctor measure your iron status. If your iron stores are too low, your doctor might suggest eating meat or taking an iron supplement. Anemia in meat-eaters is normally treated with large doses of supplemental iron, not with eating more meat. Similarly, vegetarians with anemia do not need to start eating meat but can also be treated with supplemental iron and vitamin C. If your doctor insists that you eat meat, you might want to show him or her this article.
It is important for any vegan with iron deficiency to correct it because during iron deficiency, the body has a tendency to absorb too much manganese. Luckily, vitamin C increases iron absorption but does not increase manganese absorption…”
For the detailed article see http://veganhealth.org/articles/iron

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A 2009 clip by Dr Greger is titled “Are Iron Pills Good for You? A question as to whether cancer and Alzheimer’s disease can be considered “ferrotoxic” diseases…” It’s at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8rV8V1h7u0 and  https://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-iron-pills-good-for-you/
Quote: “What about iron? Shorter lifespan, same lifespan, or longer lifespan? Shorter lifespan.
In fact, last summer an editorial in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute questioned whether cancer itself was a “ferrotoxic” disease, after a study showed that donating blood to rid oneself of excess iron appeared to cut cancer death rates in half. And with advanced neuroimaging techniques, iron accumulation in the brain is being increasingly linked to neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
Now if you’re pregnant, you need enough blood for two. Or, if you have iron deficiency anemia, then you may need iron supplements. But for most people, taking extra iron is a bad idea.
And in fact, that may be one reason there are higher cancer rates among meat-eaters – because they get heme iron, or “blood” iron, which our body is unable to downregulate the absorption of.”

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The good news is that you can get all the iron you need from a vegan diet because there are lots of plant foods containing good amounts of this mineral
Good plant sources of iron include lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, kale, dried apricots and figs, raisins, quinoa and fortified breakfast cereal.
There are lots of factors that affect the amount of iron your body can absorb from your diet. The most important factor is your body’s need for iron: more is absorbed when your body is short of iron, and less is absorbed when your stores are full. Tea, coffee and some substances in plant foods may make it difficult for your body to absorb iron. On the other hand, vitamin C increases iron absorption. Good sources include pepper, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kiwi fruit, oranges, strawberries, pineapple, grapefruit and orange juice…” from https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/nutrition-and-health/nutrients/iron

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A 2012 article by Dr Michael Greger M.D. is titled “Risk Associated with Iron Supplements“. The introduction states: “Iron is a double-edged sword. If we don’t absorb enough, we risk anemia; but if absorb too much, we may increase our risk of cancer, heart disease, and a number of inflammatory conditions. Because the human body has no mechanism to rid itself of excess iron, one should choose plant-based (non-heme) sources, over which our body has some control…
Only people with a confirmed diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia should consider supplementing their iron intake, and even then, it can be risky. A recent study found that a significant increase in oxidative stress happened within the bodies of women on iron supplements.
And so, before going on iron supplements, I would suggest talking to your physician about first trying to treat it through diet alone—by eating lots of healthy iron-rich foods, like chickpeas and pumpkin seeds, while consuming vitamin C-rich foods at the same meal, such as citrus, tropical fruits, broccoli, bell peppers, which improve plant iron absorption, while at the same time avoiding drinking tea and coffee with your meals, which can impair iron absorption…”
at https://nutritionfacts.org/video/risk-associated-with-iron-supplements/ with the associated youtube presentation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7tcNrHSJRU

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A 2010 article by Dr Michael Greger M.D. titled “Iron during Pregnancy” an excerpt: “Last year, we learned that iron supplements were harmful, but what about for pregnant women? It’s a chief component of most prenatal vitamins. Now, this is for non-anemic women. Obviously, if you’re iron deficient, no matter who you are, you may need extra iron. But if your blood count’s okay, is supplemental iron during pregnancy harmful, harmless, or helpful? It’s harmful. “Non-anaemic pregnant women should not take iron supplements.” But why?…” The article is at https://nutritionfacts.org/video/iron-during-pregnancy/

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From a list titled “Foods highest in Iron” some of the plant foods are listed below “based on levels per 200-Calorie serving” – Source: http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000119000000000000000.html#ixzz4tJldoBLF
Spices, thyme, dried… 90mg
Spices, parsley, dried… 71mg
Salt, table… 66mg
Spearmint, dried [mint]… 61mg
Spices, marjoram, dried… 61mg
Spearmint, fresh [mint]… 54mg
Jamba Juice beverage: Juice, Wheatgrass… 48mg
Cereals ready-to-eat, Ralston Enriched Bran flakes… 44mg
Parsley, freeze-dried… 40mg
Cereals ready-to-eat, Kellogg’s All-bran Complete Wheat Flakes… 39mg
Spices, dill weed, dried… 39mg
Chrysanthemum, garland, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt… 37mg
Seaweed, irishmoss, raw… 36mg
Cereals ready-to-eat, Kellogg’s Complete Oat Bran Flakes… 36mg
Spices, cumin seed… 35mg
Thyme, fresh… 35mg
Parsley, raw… 34mg
Babyfood, cereal, oatmeal, with honey, dry… 34mg
Spices, basil, dried… 33mg
Cereals ready-to-eat, General Mills, Multi-Grain Cheerios… 33mg
Cereals ready-to-eat, General Mills, Corn Flakes… 32mg
Borage, raw… 31mg
Spinach, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt… 31mg
Cereals, Malt-O-Meal, plain, dry… 31mg
Dill weed, fresh… 31mg
Cereals, Malt-O-Meal, plain, prepared with water, without salt… 31mg
Pumpkin leaves, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt… 30mg
Spices, coriander leaf, dried [Chinese parsley, cilantro]… 30mg
Borage, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt… 29mg
Spices, oregano, dried… 29mg
Jute, potherb, raw… 28mg
Spices, savory, ground… 28mg
Basil, fresh… 28mg
Spices, bay leaf… 27mg
Spices, chervil, dried… 27mg
Cereals ready-to-eat, Malt-O-Meal, Puffed Wheat Cereal… 27mg
Babyfood, cereal, barley, dry… 26mg
Coffee, brewed, espresso, restaurant-prepared, decaffeinated… 26mg
Purslane, raw… 25mg
Spinach, raw… 24mg
Spices, celery seed… 23mg
Spices, pepper, black… 23mg
Chard, swiss, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt… 23mg
Babyfood, cereal, whole wheat, with apples, dry… 22mg
Hearts of palm, canned… 22mg
Babyfood, cereal, barley, prepared with whole milk… 22mg
Cereals ready-to-eat, Malt-O-Meal, Puffed Rice Cereal… 22mg
Spices, anise seed… 22mg
Spices, tarragon, dried… 22mg
Dock, raw… 22mg
Turnip greens, canned… 22mg
Amaranth leaves, cooked, boiled, drained… 22mg
Seaweed, spirulina, raw… 21mg
Asparagus, raw… 21mg
Spices, fenugreek seed… 21mg
Cornsalad, raw… 21mg
Amaranth leaves, raw… 20mg
Seaweed, spirulina, dried… 20mg
Lettuce, butterhead raw… 19mg
Chard, swiss, raw… 19mg
Spices, rosemary, dried… 18mg
Swamp cabbage, (skunk cabbage), raw… 18mg
Cereals, oats… 18mg
Cabbage, chinese (pak-choi), cooked, boiled, drained… 17mg
Jute, potherb, cooked, boiled, drained… 17mg
Spinach, canned… 17mg
Tea, herb, chamomile, brewed… 16mg
Turnip greens, canned, no salt added… 16mg
… The list goes on!

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This set of articles were compiled for
www.EatingOurFuture.com

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