Iron Status Of Vegetarian Adults: A Review Of Literature (“Vegetarians Have High Prevalence Of Depleted Iron Stores”)

Iron Status of Vegetarian Adults: A Review of Literature, American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, November/December 2018


The findings of this review showed that vegetarians have a high prevalence of depleted iron stores, indicative by ferritin values below specified cutoffs. In most cases, the used cutoff values were below the WHO’s criteria for iron depletion (ferritin <15 µg/L).

Vegetarians also have a higher risk for developing low iron stores, iron depletion, and associated iron deficiency anemia, compared to nonvegetarians. These findings are consistent with a conclusion made by the authors of the Institute of Medicine’s report on iron, who stated, “Serum ferritin concentrations have been observed to be markedly lower in vegetarian men, women, and children than in those consuming a nonvegetarian diet.”

It has also been concluded in the past that “iron deficiency anemia appears to be no more prevalent among vegetarian women than among nonvegetarian women.” Based on this review, we conclude that the above statement may be accurate for vegetarian males. However, in all studies except for one with female Adventist vegans, vegetarian women had a considerable higher prevalence of anemia (Hb <120 g/L).

Thus, iron is rightly considered a nutrient of concern for vegetarians. This is especially true for premenopausal vegetarian women.

Maybe plants don’t have the iron they used to? High temperatures? Depleted soil?

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