The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron is 14mg however this takes into account that the average person is unable to absorb most of the iron from food sources. An adult woman needs to absorb between 1.5-2mg of iron per day. This increases to 3-6mg during the last trimester of pregnancy! Hence when it comes to iron the important factor is not how much of it is consumed but rather how much iron our body is able to absorb. Spatone has been scientifically shown to have a bioavailability of 40% (that is the iron available for absorption) compared to only 10%1 from iron tablets or 20%2 from food sources.
The absorption of iron from iron-rich foods or iron supplements can be greatly improved when a few things are considered. The following tips include substances which inhibit or enhance the absorption of iron and are thus recommended to be either avoided or actively consumed when taking iron supplements such as Spatone:
- Avoid drinking tea or wine within 30 - 45min of taking iron supplements such as Spatone.
The tannin in both these drinks can bind iron which prevents iron absorption in the stomach. Phosphates in fizzy drinks can have the same effect.
- Leave 30 - 45min between the consumption of iron supplements such as Spatone and milk (e.g. in cereal). One glass of milk (contains ~ 165mg of calcium) can reduce the absorption of iron by more than half! The same applies to dairy products (e.g. yoghurt) and Vitamin and Mineral
supplements high in calcium.
- Phytates in cereal can also inhibit iron absorption. Leave a 30 - 45min gap between the consumption of cereal and iron supplements such as Spatone.
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is well known to assist the absorption of iron. That's why we recommend diluting Spatone in a glass of orange juice.
If you can't tolerate orange juice try apple, mango or pineapple juice.
Some drugs may inhibit the absorption of iron and iron can in turn inhibit the absorption of some drugs.
Here are a few examples but please do remember to always double check with your pharmacist or during pregnancy with your midwife.
Drugs that may inhibit iron absorption:
Magnesium salts (oral)
Drugs whose absorption can be inhibited by iron:
1 D. McKenna (Royal Victoria Hospital) et al. 'a randomised trial investigating and iron-rich natural mineral water as a prophylaxis against iron deficiency in pregnancy' in Clinical and Laboratory Haematology, 2003, 25 99-103
2 Webster-Gandy J, Madden A, Holdsworth M Ed's (2006) Oxford Handbook of Nutrition and Dietetics. Oxford University Press, Oxford.