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First-aid Answers: Iron safety

Q:I’ve heard that women should take extra iron because we’re prone to anemia. But is it harmful to consume too much?

A: Compared to men, women do have higher iron needs, especially those who are pregnant or have heavy menstrual bleeding. But not all women need supplements. Most women of childbearing age should be able to consume enough dietary iron (18 grams daily; 27 grams during pregnancy) by eating iron-rich foods like meat, fish, poultry, lentils, beans, fortified cereals and spinach. Your doctor may suggest a supplement if you’re pregnant or have a kidney or gastrointestinal condition that inhibits iron absorption. Never take supplements without your doctor’s OK because too much iron may cause dangerous conditions, such as cirrhosis of the liver and heart failure.