Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world, according to the World Health Organization1. It primarily affects women in the reproductive age group. While it is possible to increase iron levels by eating iron-rich foods, many people still remain deficient. For these groups of individuals, iron supplements can cover this nutritional deficit. However, not all iron supplements are the same. A comparison of two well-known iron supplements, OptiFer™ Alpha vs Feramax™, highlights the key differences between iron supplements.
Heme And Non-heme Iron Difference
Before you start taking iron supplements it is important to understand the difference between heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is found in meat, fish, and poultry. Non-heme iron is found in iron-rich vegetables and fortified cereals.
Non-heme iron needs to be converted from the ferric state to the ferrous state before your body can absorb it. The conversion process produces excess ferrous iron, which in turn forms free radicals. These free radicals cause damage to your tissues.
Heme iron does not need to be converted to another form. As such, it does not lead to the production of free radicals, and thus causing less side effects.
OptiFer™ Vs Feramax™ Absorption
The food you eat also has a significant impact on the absorption of non-heme iron. An acidic environment in your stomach helps with the absorption of non-heme iron. Some foods, however, reduce the absorption of non-heme iron. These foods are tea, coffee, and chocolate which have tannins. Spinach, peanuts, and sweet potatoes also hinder the absorption of non-heme iron as they have oxalate (oxalate acid) in them.
With heme iron, you do not need an acidic environment for absorption, and you can continue drinking your daily cup of tea or coffee.
The differences between these two types of iron do not end there. Heme iron is readily absorbed by your body by the Heme Carrier Protein 1 (HCP1). This is a protein that is dedicated to absorbing just heme iron. Non-heme iron is absorbed by the Divalent Metal Transporter 1 (DMT1), where it competes with other metals for absorption. According to “Iron Deficiency – Investigation and Management” , 15-35% of heme iron is absorbed. However, only 2-5% of non-heme iron is absorbed by your body.3 In other words, your body has a more efficient mechanism for absorbing heme iron than non-heme iron.
OptiFer™ Alpha Vs Feramax™ Dosage
Now that you know the key differences between heme and nonheme iron, you are better equipped to understand the dosage of iron supplements.
Iron supplements list elemental iron on the label. This is the amount of iron that is available in the supplement. However, this does not necessarily mean that the entire amount of the listed elemental iron is used by your body.
Let’s take Feramax™ for example. This is a non-heme iron supplement and it features 150mg of elemental iron. However, this is non-heme iron. The 150mg of non-heme iron not only needs to be converted into a different state, it is also not readily absorbed by your body.
As a result, you may not be receiving enough iron to build your iron stores. . More importantly, you end up having excess iron in your body which may cause liver problems and diabetes2.
In comparison, OptiFer™ Alpha is a heme iron supplement which features 11mg of elemental iron. Since this is heme iron, it is easily absorbed by your body. Further, the absorption of heme iron will not cause free radicals and It is less likely you will have excess iron in your system leading to bloating, constipation, and abdominal discomfort. It is important to read the labels of your iron supplement. Just because a supplement has more milligrams of elemental iron, it does not mean your iron levels will increase quickly or you are absorbing more per tablet. Check the label of your supplement to see what type of iron it contains. for better absorption.
OptiFer™ Alpha Vs Feramax™ Costco
When you start taking an iron supplement, your iron stores start increasing. The rate of absorption depends on whether you are taking a heme iron supplement or a nonheme iron supplement. It is recommended that you continue taking iron supplements even after the symptoms of iron deficiency go away. Regardless of the type of iron supplement you take, the time to build iron stores is around 12 weeks.
Since iron supplementation needs to be ongoing, the price and availability of supplements can become an important factor. Both OptiFer™ Alpha and Feramax™ are available at Costco; both are behind the counter.
The symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, dizziness, and dry skin, among others. As a result, iron deficiency can lead to a decrease in your quality of life.
Women of reproductive age, vegetarians, athletes, and anyone who has undergone surgery is at risk of iron deficiency. If you fall into any of these groups, you may not be able to increase your iron stores through diet alone. In such cases, an iron supplement can help.
Keep in mind that it isn’t what you consume but what your body can absorb. OptiFer’s low dose and high absorption makes it an ideal supplement. A few more points to remember which make heme iron an ideal supplement:
- Does not need to be converted into a different state
- Does not produce free radicals
- Low side effects
- Not affected by foods
It is recommended that you talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of iron deficiency. Ask for a blood test and for OptiFer™ Alpha if your iron levels are low.
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