Intake and dietary sources of haem and non-haem iron among European adolescents and their association with iron status and different lifestyle and socio-economic factors

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jul;67(7):765-72. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.100. Epub 2013 May 22.


Background/objectives: Adolescents are at risk of iron deficiency because of their high iron requirements. The aims of this study were: (1) to assess iron intake, its determinants and its most important food sources and; (2) to evaluate the relation of iron intake and status in European adolescents.

Subjects/methods: Two non-consecutive 24-h recalls were completed by a computerised tool. The socio-demographic and socio-economic data were collected by a self-reported questionnaire. Weight and height were measured. A distinction was made between haem and non-haem iron.

Results: The total iron intake was significantly higher among boys (13.8 mg/day; n=1077) than girls (11.0 mg/day; n=1253). About 97.3% of the boys and 87.8% of the girls met the estimated average requirement, and 72.4% of the boys and 13.7% of the girls met the recommendation for bio-available iron intake. The ratio of haem/non-haem iron intake was lower for girls than boys. Meat (19.2; 76%) and bread and rolls (12.6;3.9%) contributed most to total and haem iron intake. Bread and rolls (13.8%) and meat (10.8%) contributed most to non-haem iron intake. Age, sex and body mass index were associated with iron intake. Only red blood cell concentration was significantly negatively associated with total, haem and non-haem iron intake.

Conclusion: Girls had lower iron intakes and ratio of haem/non-haem iron intake than boys. The main total iron and haem iron source was meat, while the main non-haem iron source was bread and rolls. Adolescent girls may be a group at risk for iron deficiency. Consequently, special attention and strategies are needed in order to improve iron intakes during adolescence.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Bread
  • Child
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet*
  • Energy Intake
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Heme / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Iron, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Iron, Dietary / blood*
  • Life Style*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Meat
  • Motor Activity
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Iron, Dietary
  • Heme