by Bradley Gillespie, PharmD
The use of iron to treat Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) has been considered and researched for some time. The best way to assess iron is to monitor ferritin levels in the blood. Why? Because the majority of iron in the body can be found within ferritin, which acts as a storage site for iron. People who suffer with RLS usually have lower levels of ferritin (and subsequently iron) than do healthy control subjects.
Investigators have concluded that many patients with the most severe cases of RLS have the lowest blood levels of ferritin, and showed the most periodic leg movements. Nonetheless, blood levels of ferritin and iron may not tell the entire story: Even in patients with normal iron levels, supplementation can still be helpful in controlling the symptoms of RLS.
It is thought that this may be because people who have RLS have difficulty transporting iron from the blood to the brain. As such, even higher levels of ferrous sulfate in the blood may be required to get sufficient amounts of the element to the brain.
A systematic search of the scientific literature discovered in excess of 25 well-designed, placebo-controlled trials published since 2000. In most of these studies, iron supplementation was shown to lead to a statistically significant reduction in patient symptoms of RLS.
From these studies, it can be concluded that iron has the potential to be an effective component in the treatment of RLS. Many of these reports suggested that proper dosing is required to allow for the absorption of iron from the gastrointestinal tract. Furthermore, blood levels of ferritin should be monitored to ensure safety.
As a result of these findings, ferrous sulfate is included as a key ingredient in the composition of Calm Legs. There are also two additional natural sources of iron: dandelion and yellow dock extract.
Restless Legs sufferer Bradley Gillespie, PharmD, is trained as a clinical pharmacist and has practiced in an industrial setting for the past 20-plus years. Currently, he supports efforts at the National Institutes of Health to develop therapeutics for rare and neglected diseases. He remains a registered pharmacist and operates a medical writing business.