What is Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide. In Canada, it is estimated that around 5% of Canadians (8% of females) are iron deficient.1

Iron deficiency anemia comes from low levels of iron in the body. Without enough iron, the body cannot produce hemoglobin and as a result, iron deficiency anemia may cause symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of  breath.2

Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia can be caused by low consumption, blood loss due to heavy menstrual bleeding, or an ulcer, as well as regular use of some over the counter pain relievers.1

Vegetarians need almost twice the daily recommended amount of iron compared with non-vegetarians.6

Iron is also essential for pregnant women to ensure normal fetal development.7


Why is iron important?2


What is Iron Deficiency Anemia?3

Causes of Iron Deficiency4

There are several causes of iron deficiency. It is important to determine what the cause is for proper treatment options.

Classification of Anemia - Hemoglobin Levels5

Adult Women & Children Pregnant Women Men
Mild 110-119 g/L 100-109 g/L 120 - 129 g/L
Moderate 80-109 g/L 70-99 g/L 90-119 g/L
Severe <80 g/L <70 g/L <90 g/L


  1. 1. Statistics Canada, Iron Sufficiency of Canadians. Catalogue no. 82-003-XPE • Health Reports, Vol. 23, no.4, December 2012. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2012004/article/11742-eng.htm
  2. 2. The Journal of Biological Chemistry Vol. 284 No. 2, pp. 711–715, January 9, 2009
  3. 3. Anemia. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20351360 
  4. 4. US National Library of Medicine, NIH. Iron deficiency anemia. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/iron-deficiency-anemia
  5. 5. World Health Organization. (‎2011)‎. Haemoglobin concentrations for the diagnosis of anaemia and assessment of severity. World Health Organization. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/85839
  6. 6. Pawlak, R., Berger, J., & Hines, I. (2016). Iron Status of Vegetarian Adults: A Review of Literature. American journal of lifestyle medicine12(6), 486–498. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827616682933 
  7. 7. Brannon, P. M., & Taylor, C. L. (2017). Iron Supplementation during Pregnancy and Infancy: Uncertainties and Implications for Research and Policy. Nutrients9(12), 1327. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9121327