Does Anemia Cause Weight Loss?

Jenna Hilton
January 4, 2023

Weight loss is on many people’s list of New Year’s resolutions year after year, but sometimes it comes unexpectedly because of a health problem. If you experience suspicious weight fluctuations that have nothing to do with your diet, watch out for other accompanying symptoms, such as fatigue and shortness of breath. You may be suffering from anemia.

This article explains what anemia is, how it may affect weight, and what to do about it.

Does anemia cause weight loss

What Is Anemia?

Anemia is a medical condition characterized by a low number of red blood cells and, consequently, by decreased hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin is a protein present in red blood cells whose essential function is to carry oxygen throughout the body. Without sufficient oxygen, the body can’t metabolize energy for basic bodily functions.

Chronic and unaddressed anemia can lead to life-threatening conditions.

What Causes Anemia?

There are many forms and causes of anemia. Anemia most often occurs because of a lack of iron, the main building block of hemoglobin.

The potential causes of iron deficiency anemia include:

  • Chronic blood loss -Such as caused by stomach ulcers, polyps in the colon or intestines, colon cancer, and regular use of aspirin and other pain relievers.
  • Pregnancy and heavy periods – The main causes of anemia in women of childbearing age.
  • Diet low in iron – Occurring with people who don’t consume iron-rich foods such as meat, eggs, leafy greens, or iron-fortified foods.
  • Inability to absorb iron – Following gastric surgery or due to certain disorders such as celiac disease.

Anemia can also be inherited or acquired because of chronic illness. Examples of other types of anemia include:

  • Vitamin deficiency anemia - Caused by a diet lacking in vitamin B12 and folate or the inability to absorb these nutrients.
  • Aplastic anemia – Occurring when insufficient red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow.
  • Sickle cell anemia – A genetic disorder that affects the shape of red blood cells, causing them to become hard and sticky and block blood flow.
  • Hemolytic anemia – An inherited or acquired disorder that makes red blood cells break down faster than normal.

Note: Optimal levels of vitamin B are essential when you are trying to lose weight. Read more about it in our article Vitamin B for Weight Loss and learn how it helps.

Does Anemia Cause Weight Loss?

Patients who develop anemia because of a severe medical condition such as cancer often experience appetite loss and consequently lose weight. Nutrient deficiencies may also lead to diminished appetite and weight loss, depending on the nutrient that is lacking and its role in the organism.

The most common nutrient deficiency that causes anemia is low iron. Scientists speculate that iron deficiency anemia causes poor appetite because of an imbalance in the hormone ghrelin, which regulates appetite. When children with iron deficiency anemia took oral iron supplements, they experienced an increase in appetite and weight gain.

Note: Learn about the causes and symptoms of hormonal imbalance and how to improve it.

Does Anemia Cause Weight Gain?

Anemia can cause weight loss, but it can also cause weight gain, depending on the type of anemia and its severity.

Iron is one of the elements necessary for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Iron deficiency can cause hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), a condition whose main symptoms are weight gain, tiredness, and depression.

Low energy and fatigue caused by iron deficiency affect our ability to remain active, making it difficult to exercise. Additionally, feeling tired increases cravings and makes it harder to seek out healthy meal options.

Available research presents conflicting results regarding the link between iron supplementation to treat anemia and weight management. Some small studies show patients gained weight during the treatment, while others negate the link between iron supplementation and weight gain. These studies show that once patients restore optimal iron levels, they significantly reduce their body weight and waist circumference.

Anemia (Iron Deficiency) Symptoms

Iron deficiency develops gradually and takes time to reveal symptoms. When anemia progresses, the symptoms range from mild to severe and include the following:

  • Tiredness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Pale skin
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Non-food cravings (ice, dirt, paper)
  • Sore tongue
  • Brittle nails

What Can You Do?

Weight fluctuations often indicate an underlying health issue, especially when paired with other uncomfortable symptoms. If you notice suspicious weight loss or weight gain, visit a doctor to identify what is causing it and learn about treatment options.

A modified diet that includes iron-rich foods and oral iron supplements are the first-line treatment for anemia.

Medical providers may recommend IV iron therapy for patients with more severe symptoms or surgery for patients with severe underlying conditions (i.e., chronic internal bleeding).

Note: Learn what is IV therapy, and what are the benefits of IV therapy.


Anemia makes it challenging to maintain optimal weight. Patients report unexplainable weight loss or weight gain accompanied by fatigue, weakness, and other symptoms. They may be mild at first, but if left untreated, anemia can lead to fatal outcomes.

If you suspect you’ve lost or gained weight due to anemia, please contact our medical professionals at Vibrant Vitality Clinic to assess your health condition and find a suitable therapy.

Jenna Hilton
Jenna Hilton has been a practicing PA since 2009, specializing in Family, Internal Medicine and Medical Aesthetics. She attended Arizona State University where she received her Bachelor's Degree and graduated magna cum laude. She received her Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies from A.T. Still University.

Jenna has been injecting neurotoxin and dermal filler since 2013. She received certification as a Master Injector in 2017 through Empire Medical in Los Angeles, California. She is currently working on a Fellowship Program in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine through the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. Her special interests include use of PLLA, Ablative/Non ablative skin resurfacing, PDO threads, hormone therapy and nutritional therapies to improve cellular regeneration and medically supervised weight loss.

Jenna Hilton believes in a multi-factorial approach, considering internal factors that accelerate aging and disease development. She always enjoys teaching. She co-founded Vibrant EDU courses at Vibrant Skin Bar and regularly performs one-on-one training with fellow injectors. She teaches Aesthetic and Advanced Injectable Courses at National Laser Institute. She has been named Preceptor of the Year and is an Adjunct Faculty Member at Midwestern University. She was born in Iowa, and lives with her husband and three children in Phoenix, AZ.

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