Iron Factsheet


Iron is an essential component of haemoglobin, red blood cell protein that transfers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. Iron supports muscle metabolism and healthy connective tissue.

There are two types of iron, Heme and nonheme iron. Heme iron has higher bio-availability than nonheme iron. The bio-availability of heme iron is less affected by other dietary components that reduce bio-availability. Vitamin C, (ascorbic acid) enhances the bio-availability of nonheme iron.

Optimal Health
Iron supplementation should be considered after testing particularly for women. Upto 25% of women of child bearing age have been shown to be deficient. Up to 18% of Females of child bearing age have Anaemia.
Iron overload (Hemochromatosis) should be investigated if Transferrin Saturation and Serum Ferritin are above normal ranges.

Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency can be mild and progress to Iron Deficiency anaemia.

  • Iron depletion – when haemoglobin levels are normal, but your body only has a small amount of stored iron, which will soon run out. This stage usually has no obvious symptoms. Testing is the only reliable way to detect this stage.
  • Iron deficiency – when your stored and blood-borne iron levels are low and your haemoglobin levels have dropped below normal. You may experience some symptoms, including tiredness
  • Iron Deficiency Anaemia – when your haemoglobin levels are so low that your blood is unable to deliver enough oxygen to your cells.


  • Pale
  • Breathlessness
  • Fatigue and Tiredness
  • Reduced Immune Function
  • Repeated Infections
  • Impared Development in Children


Risk Groups

  • Pregnant women
  • Infants and young children
  • Menstruating Women
  • People with cancer
  • People with heart failure
  • Users of Proton pump inhibitors
  • Female athletes


Testing Iron

Comprehensive Iron Study requires 5 different Test to understand your Iron Status.

Serum iron This is the amount of iron in your blood serum (the liquid part of the blood with the cells removed). The serum iron level is usually low in iron deficiency but it can also be low due to other causes such as infections.

Transferrin is a protein that attaches to iron and transports it around the body. It is difficult to interpret iron levels in the blood without knowing how much of this binding protein is also present. Instead a test for TIBC (total iron binding capacity).

Transferrin saturation  This is calculated from the iron and transferrin results. The number represents the amount of iron that has been attached to transferrin as a percentage of transferrin’s total iron carrying capacity. It’s a more accurate indicator of the amount of iron in the body than either iron or transferrin alone.

Ferritin This is another protein that attaches to iron. The amount of ferritin in the blood serum is the best measure of the amount of iron stored in the body – mainly in the liver. A low ferritin is almost always due to iron deficiency.

TIBC (total iron binding capacity) measures the total amount of iron that can be bound by proteins in the blood. Transferrin is the primary iron-binding protein, the TIBC test is a good indirect measurement of transferrin availability—the amount of transferrin that is available to bind to iron.



Hemochromatosis is a rare genetic condition, which affects mostly northern Eurpoean people, particularly of Irish decent. The condition is where excess Iron builds up in the liver, heart and lungs over time causing major damage if not detected. It is treatable with regular draws of blood. Men are 5 times more likely to get it than women. Women are protected while they are menstruating.

Testing For Hemochromatosis
An Iron Study looks at two indicators Transferrin Saturation and Serum Ferritin. They are usually a fasting blood test. If both tests are outside the normal range, then seek advice from a Healthcare Professional.
Reference ranges for Iron Studies:
Serum ferritin: 20-300 μg/L
Transferrin Saturation:10-50%
Serum ferritin: 10-200 μg/L
Transferrin saturation: 10-45%
µg/L = micrograms per litre


Download this factsheet in PDF format here.