4364.0.55.008 - Australian Health Survey: Usual Nutrient Intakes, 2011-12  
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Iron is responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood to tissues throughout the body. It is also involved in the immune system, muscle function and cognitive functioning. Iron is found in a range of food sources, with cereal products, and meat, poultry and game products and dishes being the primary sources in the Australian food supply.1 Females have greater iron requirements than males in many age groups.2

One in eight people aged two years and over had inadequate usual intakes of iron. Females were more likely than males to have inadequate iron intakes, with 23% not meeting the requirements compared with 3% of males. The prevalence of inadequate intakes was highest amongst females aged 14-50 years, with nearly two in five having inadequate iron intakes (40% of 14-18 year old females and 38% of 19-50 year-old females). These groups also have higher requirements for iron.2

Graph Image for Persons aged 2 years and over - Proportion of population with inadequate iron intakes

Source(s): Australian Health Survey: Usual Nutrient Intakes, 2011-12

These results do not consider the contribution of dietary supplements to iron intakes. On a given day in 2011-12, 14% of females had some intake of iron from dietary supplements (8% of 2-18 year olds, 17% of 19-50 year olds, and 14% of those aged 51 years and over). For males, 9% consumed some supplemental iron (8% of 2-18 year olds, 10% of 19-50 year olds, and 8% of those aged 51 years and over). The amount of iron that was present in these supplements varied. A future ABS feature article will provide further information on intakes of supplemental iron in the 2011-12 NNPAS.

The 2011-12 National Health Measures Survey (NHMS), a component of the 2011-13 AHS, included tests for ferritin (a measure of iron stores in the body) and anaemia (Feature Article: Anaemia). For more information on ferritin levels for women of childbearing age see Feature Article: Women of Childbearing Age. Overall conclusions about the iron status of the Australian population should take into account the results of the NHMS.

Less than 5% of the population exceeded the UL for iron.


1 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014, Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12, 'Table 10: Proportion of Nutrients from food groups', data cube: Excel spreadsheet, cat. no. 4364.0.55.007
2 National Health and Medical Research Council and New Zealand Ministry of Health, 2006, Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand, <https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/iron>, last accessed 4/2/2015