Monday, May 3, 2010

Breaking Research: Iron Absorption during Pregnancy

You're pregnant and hate your multivitamin (as if morning sickness wasn't enough and then you add constipation and vitamin burps on top of that) yet you want to do what's best for your developing baby. And, prenatal multivitamins serve a purpose - they provide more nutrients that regular multivitamins so both you and your little fetus stay healthy.

From B vitamins to the mineral iron, your need for certain vitamins and minerals increases during pregnancy. And, an abstract published this past week in the FASEB journal (Federation for the American Societies of Experimental Biology) outlines how important it is to pick the right form of iron. This study compared heme iron to non-heme iron. In food, heme iron is found in animal foods whereas non-heme iron is only found in plant-based foods. The majority of the iron in our diet is nonheme iron.

In this 2-day iron absorption study, 20 pregnant women (ages 16-32) and 12 non-pregnant women (ages 18-27) were randomly assigned to receive heme iron (in the form of a meal) or a non-heme supplement (ferrous sulfate). The results were astounding, heme iron absorption was significantly higher, by about 50%, in both the pregnant and non-pregnant women.

If you eat little red meat (the best dietary source of heme iron), it's a good idea to request that your prenatal contains heme iron as opposed to non-heme (the majority of iron supplements contain non-heme iron). Your iron requirements are much higher during pregnancy therefore putting you at greater risk for anemia. And, iron deficiency anemia isn't something to take lightly. During pregnancy, anemia can increase your risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight. In addition, it can leave you feeling absolutely exhausted.

The FASEB abstract can be found by clicking here.

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