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Iron is an essential trace element that must be taken in through the diet. It is a component of the blood pigment haemoglobin, which is found in erythrocytes (red blood cells) and is responsible for transporting oxygen into the cells. The body therefore needs iron primarily for blood formation and oxygen transport. Healthy people with a balanced diet are usually sufficiently supplied with iron. Pregnant women have an increased iron requirement and should therefore pay particular attention to the consumption of iron-rich foods.

In brief:

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Iron is mainly found in meat and other animal foods, but some fruits and vegetables as well as legumes and cereals are also good sources of iron. The intake of iron is more efficient via animal foods than via plant foods. Vitamin C and organic acids such as citric or lactic acid, for example, promote the intake of iron from plant foods. Therefore, it is recommended to combine the consumption of iron-rich plant foods with vitamin C-containing foods. Since iron absorption from plant foods is lower than from animal foods, people on a vegan diet need to consume more iron overall in their diet to meet their needs.

Good sources of iron when following a vegan/vegetarian diet:

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Good sources of iron when following a mixed diet:

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In the case of high additional iron intake via food supplements, gastrointestinal complaints can occur as undesirable effects in the short term. In the case of long-term excessive intake via supplements, an increase in the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer and type 2 diabetes is discussed.

Proposed maximum level for the addition of iron to food supplements (per daily dose of an individual product)

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In order to provide consumers with significant additional nutrient intake via food supplements when needed and at the same time protect well-supplied people from excessive intake, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) recommends not adding more than 6 milligrams (mg) of iron per daily dose to a food supplement. Men, post-menopausal women and pregnant women should only take iron via supplements after consulting a doctor.




Date Title Size
BfR Opinion No. 009/2021
Updated recommended maximum levels for the addition of vitamins and minerals to food supplements and conventional foods 478.3 KB
BfR Opinion No. 016/2009
Use of iron in food supplements and for the fortification of food 27.3 KB



Date Title Size
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about Iron in Food 49.7 KB


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