Across the world, anemia affects 33% of the population according to a seminar published by The Lancet. Of these cases, almost half are due to iron deficiency. One of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world is iron deficiency and women of reproductive age as well as pregnant women are at particular risk. There are several ways to increase iron levels, specifically through iron-rich foods, iron tablets, liquid iron supplements, and powder iron supplements.
Heme And Nonheme Iron Difference
As you look into increasing your iron stores through food and supplements, it is important to take note of the two different types of iron: heme and nonheme. Heme and non-heme iron have significant differences.
Heme iron is available in animal sources while nonheme iron is available in plant sources. The following are some more differences between heme and nonheme iron:
- Heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body while nonheme iron is not
- Heme iron is absorbed without needing to be converted into a usable form, whereas nonheme iron needs to be broken down for your body to absorb it
- Most foods do not affect the absorption of heme iron whereas most food do affect nonheme iron absorption
Heme iron is bound to a hemoglobin molecule, on the other hand, nonheme iron is generally bound to a salt or sugar molecule.
Forms Of Iron Supplements
If your iron levels are low, there are a few forms of iron supplements you can look in to. These are:
- Iron tablets
- Liquid iron
- Powder iron
Liquid iron and powder iron are usually nonheme iron supplements. In case of iron tablets, both heme and nonheme iron supplements are available. As mentioned above, heme iron supplements are easier to absorb and have lower side effects.
All these supplements are taken orally. Intravenous (IV) iron supplements are also available. However, this type of supplement is usually for patients who are dramatically anemic and those who are experiencing chronic blood loss. It is recommended that after taking IV iron supplements, patients continue with oral iron supplements.
Is Liquid Iron Easier To Absorb?
When it comes to liquid iron supplements, these are commonly nonheme iron supplements. The liquid state of these supplements does not affect the mechanism of action as these non-heme iron supplements still require to be broken down from ferric to ferrous state. As heme iron does not require this breakdown, your body absorbs heme iron at a greater rate than a nonheme liquid iron supplement. This is because your body uses the Heme Carrier Protein 1 (HCP1) to absorb heme iron in its entirety. The HCP1 is a receptor that is dedicated to absorbing heme.
In contrast, your body needs a slightly acidic stomach to convert nonheme iron into a ferrous state after which nonheme is absorbed through the Divalent Metal Transporter 1 (DMT1). Converting nonheme iron from its original ferric state into a ferrous state results in free radicals. These free radicals cause damage to the tissues in your body, leading to constipation and abdominal pain. As a result, a liquid iron supplement that is nonheme, will still cause significantly higher side effects the heme iron.
Liquid Iron Supplement Vs Tablet
Certain foods can also interfere with the absorption of nonheme liquid iron supplements. Tannins, which are present in tea, coffee, and chocolate can impede your body’s ability to absorb iron. Therefore, it is recommended not to drink tea or coffee when you take your nonheme iron supplement. Similarly, another compound that impedes your body’s absorption of nonheme iron is oxalate acid. Oxalate acid is present in foods such as sweet potatoes, leafy greens (such as spinach), and peanuts.
Liquid iron supplements typically have a lower dose of iron than iron tablets. As a result, you may not be able to increase your iron stores at a comparable rate, and your symptoms may persist for longer. For instance, a leading liquid iron supplement has 10mg of iron*, whereas OptiFer Alpha heme iron tablet has 11mg. Considering that liquid iron supplements are nonheme iron, with lower absorption rates, you may not be getting adequate iron to increase your iron stores.
Iron Powder Supplement
Powder iron supplements are another type of oral iron supplement. Similar to liquid iron, powder supplements usually are nonheme iron supplements. This results in lower absorption rates as well as more side effects and discomfort compared to a heme iron tablet.
In addition, powder iron supplements generally have lower doses of nonheme iron. Just like liquid iron supplements, your body will take longer to replenish its iron levels.
Compared to iron tablets, powder iron supplements require more work before consumption. Heme iron tablets such as OptiFer Alpha are available in blister packs and you can easily take them. Powder iron supplements need to be measured accurately and mixed in a drink. This opens the path to potential contamination through the measuring utensil. The need to measure and mix the powder before consumption can also be a deterrent to continuing with powder iron supplements.
With iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia, it is important to continue taking your iron supplements. Even when your symptoms improve, taking your iron supplements lets your body build up and maintain healthy iron stores.
OptiFer Alpha Heme Iron Supplement
There are many symptoms of iron deficiency anemia:
- Shortness of breath
- Cognitive issues
- Rapid heartbeats
- Brittle nails
- Hair damage
- Dry skin
Along with women of reproductive ages and pregnant women, other groups of people are also at risk of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia. These include female athletes and vegetarians.
If you fall into any of these groups or experience any of the symptoms listed above, discuss them with your family doctor and ask to have your blood checked. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for OptiFer Alpha heme iron supplements if the tests reveal low iron counts.
OptiFer Alpha is a heme iron supplement that increases your iron levels without side effects such as constipation, nausea, or abdominal pain. OptiFer is available at local pharmacies, online retailers, and on our website.
*Per adult dose. Information obtained from Health Canada’s database for Licensed Natural Health Products