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Vitamin C for iron deficiency anemia

Vitamin C plus iron supplementation was not helpful in a study of women with iron deficiency anemia.

Iron deficiency anemia is a specific type of anemia due to insufficient iron in the body (either inadequate dietary intake or absorption of iron or iron loss from bleeding).

Iron deficiency causes approximately half of all anemia cases worldwide. Iron deficiency anemia is treatable. If the cause is dietary, eating more iron-rich foods such as beans, lentils, or red meat, or taking iron supplements can correct the anemia.

Does Vitamin C improve the response to oral iron therapy?

To answer this question, a team of researchers from China conducted a study on around 440 adults (majority young women) with iron deficiency anemia from January 1, 2016, to December 30, 2017.

They divided these patients into two groups (1:1) to either receive oral iron tablets, 100 milligrams (mg) plus vitamin C 200 mg or iron tablets alone three times a day for three months. The researchers measured the change in hemoglobin levels. The results of the study were published in JAMA Network Open.

At baseline, the average hemoglobin for the study participants was 8.8 grams per decilitre. After eight weeks of follow-up, hemoglobin increased by four milligrams per decilitre in both groups.

Additionally, improvements in serum ferritin and iron were not different in the two groups.

The scientists concluded that the change in hemoglobin levels was similar between the two groups. The oral iron supplements alone were identical to oral iron supplements plus vitamin C in improving hemoglobin recovery and iron absorption among patients with iron deficiency anemia.

These findings suggest that vitamin supplements with vitamin C are not essential for adult patients with iron deficiency anemia.

However, extended periods of trials with a heterogeneous population must obtain more accurate and reliable results.


  1. Li N., Zhao G.,  Wu W., Zhang M.,  Liu W.,  Chen Q., Wang X. The Efficacy and Safety of Vitamin C for Iron Supplementation in Adult Patients With Iron Deficiency Anemia: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Network Open. 2020 Nov 2;3(11):e2023644.  doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.23644.
Purnima Sharma PhD Medical Writer
Purnima Sharma PhD Medical Writer
Purnima Sharma, PhD., is a Medical Writer with a decade of successful experience in medical/ regulatory writing. She has worked in a wide range of therapeutic areas such as neurosciences, cardiology, and gastrointestinal disorders. She is very self-motivated, analytical, and detail-oriented professional, successful in fast-paced, high pressured work environment. Outside of work, she enjoys working out and walking.


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