5. Popping a supplement “just in case” is not a good plan.
“Unless a person is iron deficient and the cause is known, healthy people do not usually need to take iron supplements,” says Ehman. “The supplemental iron can accumulate in the body and cause illness.” This overload doesn’t happen when people eat iron-containing foods, he adds. Tsui agrees. “You should be able to meet your nutrition needs through food alone. If iron is a concern, just pay attention to eating a variety of iron-rich foods and choose a vitamin C-rich fruit or vegetable at every meal.”
And be sure to talk to your doctor if you are concerned about a prescribed iron supplement. “Don’t just stop taking it,” cautions Ehman. Some may be spooked by a widely reported study that drew on the Iowa Women’s Health Study, in which nearly 39,000 women with a mean age of 61.6 were tracked for more than 20 years. It found that those who took supplements, particularly iron supplements, had a higher risk of death over the course of the study compared to those who didn’t pop a supplement. However, since women over 50 generally have low iron levels only due to serious illness (for example, bleeding from a bowel tumor), it’s unclear whether the deaths were due to those conditions or to taking unnecessary supplements.