New Research Says Depressive Symptoms Could Be Linked With Iron Deficiency
A number of things can contribute to low mood and depressive symptoms, from poor sleep to stress and even the food we eat—or don't eat. And when it comes to certain nutrients, if you aren't getting enough, your mood can definitely take a hit.
One of those nutrients? Iron, according to new research published in the Journal of Nutrition—here's what they found.
Studying the connection between iron and depressive symptoms
For this study, researchers wanted to test the connection between iron status and depressive symptoms, specifically looking at women of reproductive age (WRA).
To do so, they used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data between the years 2005 and 2010. Numbers from over 2,500 women were analyzed, identifying things like iron deficiency, anemia, and depressive symptoms.
Of the sample size, up to 16% of the participants were iron deficient and 8% were anemic. Of that 8%, just over half of those with anemia were iron deficient as well. The prevalence of depressive symptoms was 10%, and additional factors like income status were also recorded.
Based on the findings of their analysis, the women who were iron deficient had significantly higher odds of depressive symptoms than women with iron sufficiency, even after adjusting for confounding variables. The study authors also note that the prevalence of depressive symptoms were also higher in women with iron deficiency when they were in the low-income category.
"These nationally representative data indicate that nonpregnant women of reproductive age with iron deficiency in the U.S. have a higher prevalence of somatic depressive symptoms scores than those with iron sufficiency," the study authors write, "especially if they are of low income."
What to do about it
As the first study on the connection between iron status and cognitive and somatic depressive symptoms for women of reproductive age, these findings should come as big news—especially if you're a woman between 15 and 49.
"The consequences of iron deficiency go beyond physical health outcomes and can affect mental health such as depressive symptoms," the study authors note, adding that their findings "bolster the evidence that prevention and treatment of iron deficiency may be helpful for women's mental health."
The good news is, there are a plethora of iron-rich foods you can work into your regular diet, like oysters and mussels, chicken, beef, or pork liver, asparagus, spinach, apricots, soybeans, and more.
You can even find foods that are fortified with iron, like certain cereals, or get straight to the point and take an iron supplement. We always recommend eating a diet that's rich in nutrients like iron, but supplementing can go a long way too. Most quality multivitamins include iron, so you can also find one that has at least 50% of your daily iron, plus other nutrients to get the most bang for your buck. (Here are our favorite multivitamins for women, to that end.)
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.