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Some fortified cereals contain as much as 24 mg of iron per 1-cup serving. Heme iron represents only 7 to 10 percent of dietary iron of girls and women and only 8 to 12 percent of dietary iron for boys and men (Raper et al., 1984). Human milk provides approximately 0.27 mg/day (Table 9-5).

Dietary Intake

Data from nationally representative U.S. surveys are available to estimate iron intakes (Appendix Tables C-18, C-19, D-3, E-5). Data from these surveys indicate that the median daily intake of dietary iron by men is approximately 16 to 18 mg/day, and the median intake by pre- and postmenopausal women is approximately 12 mg/ day. Data from a survey done in two Canadian provinces showed that the dietary intake of iron by both men and women was slightly lower than intakes in the United States (Appendix Table F-2). The median intake of dietary iron by pregnant women was approximately 15 mg/day, which is less than the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) of 22 mg/day, indicating the need for iron supplementation during pregnancy.

Intake from Supplements

Approximately 21 to 25 percent of women and 16 percent of men were reported to consume a supplement that contains iron (Moss et al., 1989; see Table 2-2). The median intake of iron from supplements is approximately 1 mg/day for men and women, an amount based on the difference in median iron intake from food plus supplements and food alone (Appendix Tables C-18 and C-19). The median iron intake from food plus supplements by pregnant women is approximately 21 mg/day.


The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is the highest level of daily nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects for almost all individuals. Although members of the general population should be advised not to routinely exceed the UL, intake above the UL may be appropriate for investigation within well-controlled clinical trials. Clinical trials of doses above the UL should not be discouraged, as long as subjects participating in these trials have signed informed consent documents regarding possible toxicity and as long as these trials employ appropriate safety monitoring

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