Finding a teen who has a normal level of iron may be a challenge
Finding a teen who has a normal level of iron may be a challenge. The list of adolescents at risk for iron deficiency includes those who are athletes, vegetarians, overweight, or obese. Teenage girls with heavy menstrual flow are also at risk, with the National Institute of Nutrition reporting that up to 39 percent of teenage girls may not get enough iron.
During the teen years, dietary iron needs increase markedly, and a deficiency can result in slumping energy levels as well as learning and memory impairment. One study found that teens with normal iron levels performed better in learning and memory tests than their iron-deficient counterparts. Another study found that once teens received adequate dietary iron, their mood and ability to concentrate improved.
Iron supplements can have side-effects such as constipation and stomach upset, and should only be taken when advised by a health professional. A safer way to boost iron levels is through diet. Red meat, poultry, and fish contain easily absorbed heme iron. Vegetarians can get non-heme iron by eating grains, dried beans, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Adding foods rich in vitamin C will aid iron absorption.
It is ironic that teens with such huge appetites can be low in such an important nutrient.