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VITAL FOR: Metabolising your food - low levels lead to tiredness and irritability; cardiac function and nervous system.
RDA: 1mg for men, for women.
GOOD FOOD SOURCES: Fortified cereals, pork, milk.
DEFICIENCY: Most likely in smokers or if taking antacids, diuretics or undergoing chemotherapy. A diet high in sugar and simple carbohydrates also a risk. Alcohol, tea, coffee and sulfite preservatives (in wine) inhibit uptake.
RISKS FROM TAKING SUPPLEMENTS: Up to 100mg considered safe. However, supplements can disrupt the heart medicine digoxin and diuretics. Antibiotics can increase uptake by killing friendly gut bacteria that feed on thiamin.
Bottom line: Try to get iron from dietary sources, which also include lean meats, seafood, nuts, and green, leafy vegetables. (You can also maximize your absorption with these meat-free iron combinations .) True iron deficiency is unusual, but you may need a supplement if you're anemic, or your doctor might prescribe them before surgery, says Jessica Anderson, a registered dietitian with the Coastal Bend Health Education Center, at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, in Corpus Christi. Women, especially those who are pregnant or menstruating, might also benefit.