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Iron Deficiency Linked To Restless Legs Syndrome

If you wonder why I recommend regularly monitoring your iron levels -- too much or too little iron can create problems -- to optimize your health, the results of a Mayo Clinic study of the incidence of restless legs syndrome speak volumes. In a survey of 532 children who were seen at Mayo's sleep clinic, 6 percent of them suffered from restless legs syndrome. The common risk factors:

  • A family history of the disorder (more than three times likely in mothers)
  • Iron deficiency

Of that group who suffers from restless legs syndrome, a surprising 83 percent had low iron levels in the blood (as measured by serum ferritin), according to researchers who were unsure if a poor diet or genetic predisposition is to blame.

Scientists believe it's important to recognize and treat the condition, not only from a dietary perspective, but because it can impair a child's quality of life. They also suspect a connection between restless legs syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Surprisingly, Mayo Clinic doctors have found, in treating kids with decreased attention spans, more than ONE-THIRD of them will have sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome.

If you find your child is iron-deficient, I strongly recommend staying away from supplements for two reasons:

  • They can cause irritating side effects such as abdominal pain, nausea, constipation and diarrhea.
  • Iron overload can lead to many more serious health problems.

The best iron "supplement" you can take is grass-fed red meat among other foods appropriate for your specific nutritional type.

Science Blog December 29, 2004

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