Dietary and supplement treatment of iron deficiency results in improvements in general health and fatigue in Australian women of childbearing age

J Am Coll Nutr. 2001 Aug;20(4):337-42. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2001.10719054.


Objective: To examine the effects of iron deficiency and its treatment by iron supplementation or a high iron diet on fatigue and general health measures in women of childbearing age.

Design: Randomised controlled trial to compare supplement and dietary treatment of iron deficiency.

Subjects: 44 iron deficient (serum ferritin < 15 microg/L or serum ferritin 15-20 microg/L, plus two of the following: serum iron < 10 micromol/L, total iron binding capacity > 68 micromol/L or transferrin saturation < 15%) and 22 iron replete (hemoglobin > or = 10 g/L and serum ferritin > 20 microg/L) women 18 to 50 years of age were matched for age and parity.

Interventions: Iron deficient women were randomly allocated to either iron supplementation or a high iron diet for 12 weeks.

Measures of outcome: Iron deficient and iron replete participants had iron studies performed and completed the Piper Fatigue Scale (PFS) and the SF-36 general health and well-being questionnaire at baseline (T0), following the 12 week intervention (T1) and again after a six-month non-intervention phase (T2). The SF-36 includes measures of physical (PCS) and mental (MCS) health and vitality (VT).

Results: MCS and VT scores were lower and PFS scores were higher for iron deficient women (diet and supplement groups) than iron replete women at baseline. Both intervention groups showed similar improvements in MCS, VT and PFS scores during the intervention phase, but mean increases in serum ferritin were greater in the supplement than the diet group. PCS scores were not related to iron status.

Conclusions: Treatment of iron deficiency with either supplementation or a high iron diet results in improved mental health and decreased fatigue among women of childbearing age.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Fatigue / therapy*
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Health Status*
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Iron / blood
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Iron, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transferrin / metabolism


  • Hemoglobins
  • Iron, Dietary
  • Transferrin
  • Ferritins
  • Iron