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Meeting iron and zinc needs

Why do I need iron and zinc?

  • Iron is required for producing energy, optimal brain function and to fight infection.
  • Fatigue is a common symptom of iron deficiency. Other symptoms include lack of ability to concentrate, exercise and frequent infections.
  • Zinc is important for growth, development and fighting infections. Poor growth and diarrhoea are common symptoms of zinc deficiency in infants and poor immunity, in the elderly

How common is iron and zinc deficiency in Australia?

  • Low iron levels have been reported in:
  • Up to a third of young women.1 2
  • 20% of women of child bearing age. 3
  • Up to a third of toddlers. 4
  • Emerging evidence suggests obesity reduces absorption of iron and a higher prevalence of iron deficiency has been reported in overweight groups. 5 6
  • There is limited evidence on the prevalence of zinc deficiency in Australia. However, emerging evidence suggests that zinc and iron deficiency may co-exist.7

Dietary strategies to prevent iron and zinc deficiency

  • Studies consistently show red meat prevents iron and zinc deficiencies when requirements are high such as in babies, toddlers, teenage girls and young women.8 9 10 11 12 13
  • Red meat is recommended 3 to 4 times a week to meet iron requirements, otherwise high iron replacement foods are required.


  • 1 Fayet F, Truswell A, Petocz P, Franklin J, Caterson I, and Samman S. “Eating behaviour and biomarkers of nutritional status in young women”. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 16. Suppl. 3(2007): S57.
  • 2 Rangan AM, Aitkin I, Blight GD, Binns CW. “Factors affecting iron status in 15-30 year old female students”. Asia Pacific J Clin Nutr. 6.4 (1997): 291-295
  • 3 Ahmed F, Coyne T, Dobson A and McClintock C (2008). Iron status among Australian adults: findings of a population based study in Queensland, Australia. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 17 (1):40-47
  • 4 Karr M, Alperstein G, Causer J, Mira M, Lammi A, Fett MJ (1996). Iron status and anaemia in preschool children in Sydney. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 20(6):618-22.
  • 5 McLung JP, Karl JP. Iron deficiency and obesity: the contribution of inflammation and diminished iron absorption. Nutr Rev 67.2 (2008):100-104.
  • 6 Zimmerman MB, Zeder C, Muthayya S et al. Adiposity in women and children from transition countries predicts iron absorption, iron deficiency and reduce response to iron fortification. Int J Obes 32 (2008):1098-442s.
  • 7 Yokoi K, et al. Association between zinc pool sizes and iron stores in premenopausal women without anemia. British Journal of Nutrition 2007; 98: 1214-1223
  • 8 Tetens I, Bendtsen K, Henriksen M, Ersboll A, Milman N. “The impact of meat versus a vegetable based diet on iron status in women of childbearing age with small iron stores.” European Journal of Nutrition. 46 (2007): 439-445.
  • 9 Patterson A, et al. “Dietary and lifestyle factors influencing iron stores in Australian women: an examination of the role of bio-available dietary iron.” Australian Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics. 58. 2 (2001): 107-113.
  • 10 Krebs N, Westcott J, Butler N, Robinson C, Bell M, and Hambridge KM. “Meat as a first complementary food for breastfed infants: feasibility and impact on zinc intake and status.” Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 42 (2006): 207-214.
  • 11 Szymlek-Gay E, Ferguson E, Heath A, Gray A and Gibson R. “Food-based strategies improve iron status in toddlers: a randomized controlled trial.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 90 (2009): 1541-1551.
  • 12 Gibson R, Heath A, Limbaga M, Prosser N, and Skeaff C. “Are changes in food consumption patterns associated with risk of suboptimal zinc status among young women from Dunedin, New Zealand?” British Journal of Nutrition. 86 (2001): 71-80.
  • 13 Heath A, Tuttle C, Simons M, Cleghorn C and Parnell W. “Longitudinal study of diet and iron deficiency anaemia in infants during the first two years of life.” Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 11. 4 (2002): 251–257.
  • 14 Australian Guide to Healthy Eatingwww.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/E384CFA588B74377C...$File/fd-cons.pdf

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