Many Chronically Tired Teenage Girls
May Not Know They Have an Iron Deficiency
adolescent girls who suffer a lack of energy or memory or
verbal learning difficulties may have an undetected iron deficiency
in their daily diet. Typically a doctor will perform a hemoglobin
test for iron-deficiency anemia. This test will sometimes
identify a girl as having a normal level of iron, when in
fact she is deficient. A Johns Hopkins Medical Center study
found that a "serum-ferritin" test, which must be
specially requested from a doctor, is necessary to more accurately
diagnose iron deficiency. The Johns Hopkins study treated
half of the iron-deficient girls with iron supplements, while
using placebos to treat the other half of the group. Those
treated with iron supplements received an immediate improvement
in their iron level, which resulted in higher study test scores
in verbal learning and memory. Why are a quarter of all high
school-age girls subject to iron deficiency? One reason is
that their bodies require a large level of iron to create
additional tissue and blood during a period of rapid growth.
A second factor is the start of their menstrual period, which
requires additional iron. Third, many high school-age girls
are either reducing their food intake, or not eating red meat,
mistakenly considered high in fat content. Actually, red meat
is the best dietary source for iron. There are numerous ways
to increase iron by changing one's diet, as follows:
Include a small portion of lean meat, poultry, or fish in
one's daily diet.
This will provide a source of heme iron, derived from animal
foods, which is more readily absorbed than iron in plant foods.
Heme iron also increases the amount of iron absorbed from
plant foods, such as beans, grains, and vegetables.
Eat foods high in Vitamin C, combined with plant foods, to
increase iron absorption.
Therefore for breakfast, consider having a glass of orange
or grapefruit juice with a breakfast of iron-fortified cereal
(such as Total, Raisin Bran, or Cream-of-Wheat), and skim
milk. Cranberry juice cocktail is also high in Vitamin C.
At lunch and dinner, eat fruits and vegetables high in Vitamin
C. Choose fruit such as oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, kiwi,
mangoes, strawberries, and blueberries. Vegetable sources
of Vitamin C include broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, sweet
green and red peppers, tomatoes and tomato products, Brussels
sprouts, kale, collards, turnips, mustard greens, and black
Limit your consumption of coffee or tea at meals, since these
beverages decrease iron absorption.
It is best to drink tea or coffee more than one hour before
a meal and two hours afterwards.
Take a vitamin supplement each day.
Choose one which provides 100% of the recommended daily allowance
for vitamins and minerals. The less-expensive generic brands
are acceptable. These dietary suggestions will help raise
a low level of iron to a normal amount, which will increase
energy and improve memory and verbal learning abilities. The
Johns Hopkins study reveals the need for further research
on the impact of iron deficiency on brain function and mood
swings, in addition to its affect on physical energy and learning.