Iron deficiency is one of the most common micronutrient deficiencies around the world affecting women, children, and infants most severely. According to recent estimates by the World Health Organization, an estimated 2 billion people are anemic–much of which is due to iron deficiency. Though iron deficiency is most prevalent in resource-poor nations, it remains highly prevalent in developed nations as well.
Iron deficiency often coexists with illness, injury, and obesity, which can cause either acute or chronic inflammation. Inflammation alters iron homeostasis due to the body’s need to fulfill its own iron requirements while limiting the iron available to pathogens. Inflammation obscures the accurate assessment of iron status by elevating the recommended indicator of iron status in field studies. Consequently, iron status of vulnerable populations can be difficult to accurately assess (and interventions therefore difficult to target and evaluate) due to concurrent inflammation.
Iron deficiency reduces physical performance, work capacity, and educability at the individual and population level as well as having ill effects on overall health and mortality.