A Short Guide to Iron Supplements and the Active Female

A Short Guide to Iron Supplements and the Active Female

While getting enough iron is extremely important for females—especially active females—only 27% of American women report taking iron.1 Explore the market opportunity in iron supplements and how to choose the right iron source to satisfy female consumers. 


  • Iron is an essential nutrient for active females, as it plays a critical role in delivering oxygen to the muscles and supporting overall energy levels.
  • Iron supplements can be an effective way for active females to meet their daily iron needs, but it's important to choose the right supplement and take it correctly to ensure maximum absorption and effectiveness.
  • When selecting an iron supplement, active females should look for products that are specifically formulated for their needs. 

The Importance of Iron in the Diet

Due to the prevalence of iron under-consumption, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 lists iron as a nutrient of public health concern for certain segments of the population: women of childbearing age, pregnant women, and young children.2 Since these groups have higher iron requirements, they are at a special risk of insufficient iron, which can lead to health problems.

Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, the red blood cell protein that transports oxygen throughout the bloodstream. Without enough iron, the body can’t make enough red blood cells to meet oxygen demands. Myoglobin, which supplies oxygen to the muscles, also requires iron. These key roles of iron in the body make it particularly important for active consumers since low levels in the diet can lead to fatigue.

Iron is also involved in metabolism and energy production, growth and development, cell division, and the synthesis of hormones and connective tissue. Since low iron intake can lead to iron deficiency anemia, which impairs immune function, many consumers also associate iron with immune health. 

Iron Requirements for Females

Through age thirteen, females and males have the same Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for iron. However, the onset of menstruation increases a female’s iron needs to compensate for the monthly loss of iron. At age fourteen, a female’s RDA for iron jumps from 8 to 15 mg per day. By nineteen, it’s 18 mg—more than double the RDA for males the same age. For pregnant women, this value reaches 27 mg.

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Iron

Age Male Female Pregnant Lactating
0-6 months 0.27 mg 0.27 mg    
7-12 months 11 mg 11 mg    
1-3 years 7 mg 7mg    
4-8 years 10 mg 10 mg    
9-13 years 8 mg 8 mg    
14-18 years 11 mg  15 mg  27 mg 10 mg
19-50 years 8 mg 18 mg  27 mg 9 mg 
51+ years 8 mg  8 mg     

Challenges with Iron Sources

As important as iron is in developing a supplement that meets women’s needs, there, unfortunately, can be some negative issues associated with different iron sources. There are big differences in bioavailability, for example. In addition, some common iron sources—such as ferrous sulfate and ferrous fumarate—are difficult to digest and can cause gastrointestinal distress. In fact, 62% of women taking iron supplements report experiencing discomfort when using their current iron supplements and are seeking alternative sources.3

woman with supplement bottle


Lactoferrin is an innovative ingredient solution for supplements that supports gentle and effective iron delivery. This milk-based protein is rich in highly bioavailable iron. In addition, lactoferrin’s ability to balance the iron within the body allows for easier digestion without upsetting stomachs. Lactoferrin meets the needs of today’s active female consumers, both for health and sports performance. 


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Ingredients for Today

At Glanbia Nutritionals, we take pride in advancing the science of nutrition and developing the ingredients that meet today’s needs. Designed for women, our FerriUp™ is a whey protein concentrate that naturally contains abundant levels of lactoferrin, vitamin B12 and 80% protein, providing a strong nutrient foundation that supports iron modulation, energy levels and immune health for active women. To learn more about how FerriUp can benefit your consumers, contact us.


1. Glanbia Nutritionals. (2017). Bioferrin Iron Crystal Bursts Consumer Survey.
2. USDA & HHS. (2020). Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, 9th Ed. Retrieved from https://dietaryguidelines.gov/. 
3. Glanbia Nutritionals. (2016). Consumer Sample Test and Survey.

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