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Can You Eat Dairy Products & Iron Supplements Together?

By Cassie Wright

Many Americans diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia look to iron supplementation as a means to improve energy levels. With several choices on the market, and many conflicting instructions given as to how to take iron supplements, you may not be sure of the best way to introduce supplementary iron into your daily routine. A common concern, for instance, is the impact consumption of dairy products has on the absoprtion of iron supplements.

Dairy Products and Iron Absorption

In a meta-analysis published in the 2000 "Nutrition Research Reviews," patients are encouraged to separate dairy intake and iron intake. Studies focusing on single meal intake of calcium and iron suggest that calcium inhibits iron absorption when consumed at a dose of 300 mg or higher, a dose equivalent to drinking an 8 oz. glass of milk or 6 oz. yogurt. However, in studies observing multiple meals over multiple days, little to no long term inhibition is noted. For this reason, the recommendation is to take iron supplements separate from meals containing calcium containing foods.

Other Inhibitors

For those aiming to limit the inhibitory affect certain foods have on iron absorption, it is recommended teas, coffee, red wine, soy protein, and milk proteins such as casein or whey are avoided around the time an iron supplement is taken. Choosing a time of the day such as between meals may limit the effect that certain foods have on limiting iron absorption.

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Foods that Optimize Absorption

Research published in the October 2010 issue of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" shows that consuming iron supplements or iron-rich foods such as meat with vitamin C will enhance the absorption of iron. Consuming fruits, predominately citrus fruits with meals and or with supplements in many cases over-compensates for the inhibiting impact of calcium, phytates, and polyphenols in foods such as dairy products, teas, coffee, and red wine.

How Much Iron Do You Need?

Deficient or not, many people wonder how much iron should be ingested to prevent deficiencies and medical problems. The American Dietetic Association recommends that women between the ages of 19 and 50 consume minimally 18 mg per day, and men over the age of 19 consume minimally 8 mg per day. For women over the age of 50, intake levels of 8 mg per day are recommended to prevent a deficiency.

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