Iron, an essential mineral, sometimes gets a bum rap. Too much iron can be bad, but not enough iron can have equally serious consequences. While it is true that women need more iron than men do, especially during their premenopausal years, that should not scare people away from ensuring adequate (if not optimal) levels of iron in their diet and supplement regimen.
This recent study is just one in many that enforces this point.
Women who get a little more than the recommended daily amount of iron in their diets may be less likely to get a more severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), according to a new study.
Researchers followed about 3,000 women over 10 years and found that those who consumed more than 20 milligrams (mg) per day of iron sources were 30 percent to 40 percent less likely to develop PMS than women who got less of the mineral.
Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson, the study's lead author from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, explained "We were interested in looking at some specific minerals," she added, noting that her team had previously studied the relationship between vitamin intake and PMS.
For the new study, the researchers limited their analysis to PMS in which symptoms such as breast tenderness, bloating, depression and anxiety are so severe they "substantially impair life activities and social relationships."
That type of PMS affects between 8 percent and 15 percent of U.S. women, they write in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
The found that, overall, eating a diet that provided about 22mg of iron every day was linked to a 33 percent decrease in a woman's risk of developing PMS during those 10 years, compared to the women who ate the least amount of iron - about 10mg.
Those 22mg are a little more than the 18mg of iron per day that's recommended for adult women, according to the researchers.
Even greater iron consumption was tied to an even larger drop in risk for PMS, but some of the women were eating diets with too much of the mineral.
The U.S. Institute of Medicine, which sets recommended dietary allowances for nutrients, points out that iron consumed from meat and poultry sources is more easily processed in the body, and that people who get their iron only from a vegetarian diet might want to consume as much as twice the recommended amount.
Although Bertone-Johnson said they can't prove iron prevents PMS, the researchers suspect the mineral may have something to do with the production of serotonin, a molecule that plays a role in many processes in the body and in the brain.
Iron is necessary for the body to manufacture serotonin, they write.Further research is also necessary, they say, to look at some of their other findings, including that women with the highest intakes of potassium were about 50 percent more likely than others to develop PMS.
(American Journal of Epidemiology, online February 26, 2013.)
We have spoken about the questions of iron supplementation many times in the past. Here are some comments you might want to look at in the Willner Chemists Reference Library:
Should Iron Be In Your Multivitamin?
Iron, Magnesium and Vitamin A: Are your getting too much, or too little?