Are Canadians being shortchanged by their iron supplements?

National survey finds majority of pharmacists recommend less-absorbent iron

RICHMOND HILL, ON, Oct. 8, 2013 /CNW/ - When it comes to iron supplements, strength is not necessarily in numbers. This means Canadians may not be absorbing as much iron as they think they are. This concept is especially frightening for those taking iron supplements to combat iron deficiency anemia, which according to the World Health Organization, is one of the most common nutritional problems in the world.

Non-heme iron supplements, derived from vegetable proteins, are the most common iron supplements in Canada. These supplements list a high measurement of elemental iron per dose, but do not offer as efficient iron absorption as heme iron supplements, derived from meat proteins. "Various iron supplements showcase high levels of elemental iron per dose without taking into consideration efficiency of absorption," says Anil Radia, Ottawa Pharmacist. "As pharmacists, our number one concern when recommending iron supplements should be the rate of bodily absorption."

The body absorbs up to 351 per cent of heme iron with fewer milligrams per dose as everyone is born with heme-specific receptors in their digestive system. With non-heme iron, the body can only absorb about two to 20 per cent of the elemental iron listed on the packaging. 2 The excess iron is stored in the body and can lead to side effects like constipation, nausea, cramping and diarrhea. 3 Excess iron ingested by the body may also increase one's risk of toxicity.

With 90 per cent of Canadians relying on their pharmacists to help select an appropriate iron supplement, pharmacists play a large role in educating consumers. Unfortunately, pharmacists and consumer materials often do not communicate the differences between heme and        non-heme iron.

According to a recent survey conducted by Medical Futures Inc., 37 per cent of pharmacists identify absorption as their reason for recommending one supplement over another. Even though heme iron has been proven to have better absorption, only 16 per cent state they regularly recommend heme based iron supplements. Additionally, 83 per cent of pharmacists acknowledge a difference between various iron supplements but only 53 per cent of pharmacists communicate the difference between heme and non-heme iron supplements.

"Pharmacists need to do a better job educating consumers on the differences between iron supplements so that consumers can make informed decisions," says Anil Radia, Ottawa Pharmacist.

Studies have proven oral heme iron supplements are as effective as intravenous iron.4 Unlike non-heme iron, heme iron supplements offer better absorption rates with less iron per dose, lower side effects and little to zero excess iron left in the body. The measure of an iron supplement is not in numbers, but in the absorption.

For more information about heme iron supplements, talk to your local pharmacist.

About Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional problems in the world, known to affect around 30 per cent of the global population, with an additional 50 per cent potentially at risk of becoming iron deficient.5 When a person is iron deficient, red blood cells have difficulty carrying oxygen throughout the body to vital organs. As a result, the heart has to work harder to move oxygenated blood through the body causing fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, swelling of the tongue, dizziness, irritability, headache and pale skin. A 2012 Canadian Health measures survey found depleted iron levels in 13 per cent of teenagers and 9 per cent of women aged 20 to 49. The study also found higher rates of anemia among seniors. 6Iron deficiency is common in women, and especially common individuals who experience frequent blood loss, who are going through a rapid growth or development period, who are pregnant or who have certain chronic conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease or chronic kidney disease.

For adults, Health Canada recommends a maximum daily iron intake of 45 milligrams to combat and reduce risk of iron deficiency anemia.7

About Medical Futures Inc.
Medical Futures Inc. is a niche pharmaceutical company with a focus on Gastroenterology, Pain Management, Dermatology and Women's Health. It provides Canadians with safe, effective and affordable products to help improve the overall quality of their lives. Its current product offering includes: Iberogast Proferrin Pegalax Mutaflor Purfem Moviprep Onypen Durela Normacol. For more information about Medical Future Inc. please visit

1 Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron - Health Professional Fact Sheet. Web Accessed 08.26.13 <>
4 Nagaraju et al. BMC Nephrology 2013, 14:64.
5 Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron - Health Professional Fact Sheet. Web Accessed 08.26.13 <>
6 Statistics Canada. Iron Sufficiency of Canadians. Web Accessed 08.26.13 <>
7 Health Canada, Important Labeling Information for Iron-Containing Products. Web Accessed 08.27.13 <>


For further information:

Alon Baramapov
Prizsm Public Affairs Inc.

Profil de l'entreprise


Renseignements sur cet organisme


Jetez un coup d’œil sur nos forfaits personnalisés ou créez le vôtre selon vos besoins de communication particuliers.

Commencez dès aujourd'hui .


Remplissez un formulaire d'adhésion à CNW ou communiquez avec nous au 1-877-269-7890.


Demandez plus d'informations sur les produits et services de CNW ou communiquez avec nous au 1‑877-269-7890.