Iron deficiency mainly affects women and children. Kids and teenagers go through spurts of rapid growth, which require a great deal of iron.
Every cell in your body needs oxygen. There is iron in the haemoglobin of red blood cells and it carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.
Iron is essential for the body's chemical reactions that produce energy from food.
Cells that fight infection rely on having enough iron. If iron stores are low, your body is more prone to infection.
What to do
A diet that includes lean red meat has long been recognised as a way of boosting iron. Industry organisation NZ Beef + Lamb is behind World Iron Awareness Week (August 26 to September 1). You can find out more about iron deficiency and the benefits of eating meat at ironweek.co.nz.
Philip McKibbin from the NZ Vegetarian Society says anyone who suspects they have an iron deficiency should consult their doctor.
Signs you may be anaemic
- Pale skin, gums and nail beds
- Reduced ability to fight infection
- Difficulty concentrating
- Shortness of breath when exercising