Women Unaware About Iron Deficiency Risks

  • Parents unaware of iron deficiency risks in children and impact on learning
  • But knowledge of Red Meat as a good source of Iron is high


Women's lack of understanding of the importance of iron in the diet could be endangering their health and hindering the education performance of their children according to research published today.

Whilst fifty per cent of women believe they're getting enough iron, clinical research shows that the diets of more than 90 per cent of women consume less than the recommended intake of iron. A recent poll indicated that a further 31% of women simply didn't know whether they were getting enough iron in their diet.2 And, while two-thirds of the women polled knew that pregnant women were at risk of iron deficiency, only 39% correctly identified all women of childbearing age as a high risk group.2

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey found that 25% of women in the UK suffer from dangerously low intakes of iron, while up to up to 27% of teenage girls and 13% of teenage boys have low iron stores.1

The research, conducted b You Gov on behalf of MeatMATTERS , looked at the levels of knowledge of iron in the diet and the impact of iron deficiency amongst women. The report was commissioned as part of MeatMATTERS campaign to raise awareness of iron deficiency and the important role red meat can play in providing iron in the diet.

The results are just as concerning when it comes to women's knowledge of the importance of iron in the diets of children. Only 30% of women polled knew that children are at risk of iron deficiency, with just 31% aware that lack of iron could reduce a child's attention span and potentially hinder learning ability. When asked specifically about their own children, a worrying 40% claimed not to know whether their child was getting enough iron in their diet.2

Encouragingly, women did appear to know which foods do provide a good source of iron in the diet. 61% correctly identified rump steak, 58% watercress and 85% liver as good sources of iron. And 67% identified eating red meat as part of balanced diet as a good way to increase iron levels.2

A lack of Iron can lead to Iron deficiency anaemia. This is when the body has a reduced number of red blood cells and cannot transport enough oxygen around the body with many detrimental health effects including fatigue and impaired development in babies and young children. Health professionals were alerted by research published in 2011 to the increased risk of iron deficiency in these groups.3

TV Doctor and Health Campaigner Dr Christian Jessen who is supporting the initiative said "The high rate of iron deficiency amongst women in a developed country like the UK is a real concern. Equally shocking is the low level of awareness of the risks. For women, the side effects are subtle and can creep up on you and you can end up feeling tired, lethargic with no get up and go. In severe cases, your hair can fall out and your nails will become dry and flaky. Following a healthy, balanced diet that's rich in iron, vitamins and other minerals is by far the best solution for your health in the long term. Red meat can play a valuable role in this as it is a good source of iron and it's encouraging to see that most women recognize this. We now want to raise awareness of the risks of not getting enough iron."

Nutritionist Amanda Ursell said "Red meat such as beef, lamb and pork have a high nutrient density. This means that it contains a wide variety of nutrients in a relatively small amount of food, it's a major source of protein, B vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc. The body needs iron to transport oxygen in the blood. Not having enough iron from the foods you eat can leave you lacking in this vital nutrient, which means that it is more difficult for your body to get oxygen to the place it's needed most. This can result in side effects such as tiredness, pale skin and sometimes shortness of breath"

For more information about the role of red meat and a selection of tasty versatile recipes using pork, beef and lamb visit www.meatmatters.com.