A recent study showed some interesting results. Iron supplementation reduced fatigue in menstruating women who are not anemic but have low ferritin levels
. So we ask ourselves, is ferritin level the blood test we should be checking for fatigue?
In the study, women aged 18 to 53 years who reported fatigue had ferritin levels checked. If a woman had a ferritin level of less than 50 μg/L (even with a normal hemoglobin level) they received either oral iron sulfate (80 mg of elemental iron daily) or placebo for 12 weeks.
Women in the iron supplement group had a 48% decrease in fatigue, and they did much better than those taking placebo pills.
Iron deficiency may be an under-recognized cause of fatigue in women of childbearing age. If fatigue is not due to other causes (hypothyroidism for example) the identification of iron deficiency as a potential cause may lead to an easy solution.
The take home message is that iron supplementation should be considered for women with unexplained fatigue who have ferritin levels below 50 μg/L. Other than some constipation there aren’t many downsides.
- Dr. O
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