Should seniors take a multivitamin with iron?

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Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT
Fitness
Yes, but not too much or not at all if advised by their doctor because of a specific condition where iron may be contraindicated. There is a very small percentage of people who should not take a multivitamin and mineral formula (MVM) that contains iron because of a condition called hemochromatosis (an inherited disease that leads to iron-overload, affecting 0.5 percent of the population).

The other scare, though unsupported, is that any supplementing with iron (unless prescribed due to classic iron deficiency) may lead to oxidative damage (acting as a pro-oxidant) increasing the risk of heart and other aging diseases. If you are getting more than the recommended DRI of 15-18 mg/day, then there may be a case for the latter warning but our advisory board (http://www.dotfitww.com/why-us-advisory-board.php) believes iron insufficiency is a much bigger problem than any possibility of an iron overload or causing negative pro-oxidant issues. This is especially at the low amounts we recommend a good MVM should contain, such as the dotFIT Over 50 MVM, which contains 8 mgs -- i.e. enough iron to make a positive impact on improving common insufficient levels but not enough to harm since low iron can also cause oxidative damage.

Keep in mind both very high and low to deficient iron status can cause oxidative stress. The goal is to maintain normal iron status -- not low iron status. One of the highly respected researchers with a balanced understanding of this iron issue is Dr. Bruce Ames. One of his key publications (and there are others) is Ames BN. Low micronutrient intake may accelerate the degenerative diseases of aging through allocation of scarce micronutrients by triage. A few sentences pulled from the section on iron: 
  • “Iron deficiency also is associated with diminished immune function and neuromuscular abnormalities.”
  • “The effects of iron deficiency occur along a continuum, and subclinical iron deficiency may have deleterious effects on heme biosynthesis.”
  • “Dietary iron deficiency in the absence of anemia decreases aerobic capacity and physical work performance, which are improved by iron supplementation.”
 So take a MVM with a small amount of iron unless your doctor has a good reason for you not to.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.