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I need some help for one of my stories and I didn't think this would be suitable for Worldbuilding or Writing so I am asking it here.

Lisa, one of my characters, is pregnant and she is in her second trimester. She is pale, has weird cravings, and feels tired and dizzy. Her grandma thinks that she is anemic and is planning to cook liver for Lisa. Lisa is not nauseous at all.

Now, I have heard 2 sides of the same coin here when it comes to using liver to treat anemia regardless of pregnancy, age, and other factors.

One side I have heard is that it is rich in heme iron(the more bioavailable form of iron) and you should definitely eat it if you are anemic.

The other side I have heard is that it has so much vitamin A in it that if you eat enough liver often enough to treat the anemia, you will get vitamin A toxicity because 4 ounces of liver has at least 16 times the recommended daily value of vitamin A and if you want iron rich meat to treat anemia, kidney might be a better option.

So should a pregnant woman who is anemic eat liver as long as it is cooked and if so, how much and how often to treat anemia while avoiding vitamin A toxicity?

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In short: Animal liver may not be a suitable source of iron to treat anemia in pregnancy.

The upper tolerable intake for vitamin A --the amount that should not cause any side effects in an adult women and no birth defects in a baby--, is 10,000 IU per day, which can come from 4.8 oz or 135 g of pork liver.

This amount of pork liver can contain 24 mg iron, which is less than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron (27 mg/day) and less than commonly prescribed doses of iron supplements (>100 mg/day), so it is unlikely to improve anemia in a reasonable time.

(Sources: Vitamin A, Iron)

P.S. NOTE, that beef liver can contain much more vitamin A and much less iron, so it is even less suitable.

P.P.S. One serving of beef spleen contains twice as much iron than pork liver and practically no vitamin A (NutritionData).

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  • Why so much more iron in the spleen than in the liver? I mean yes, breaking down red blood cells does mean that a lot of iron is left as a byproduct. But doesn't every hepatocyte have ferritin, a protein to store iron? So why is it then that 1 serving of beef liver has only 28% recommended iron while beef spleen has 673% recommended iron? – Caters Nov 7 '17 at 18:28
  • It's just the way it is...More red blood cells are probably broken down in the spleen. And then it just depends on the storage capacity. – Jan Nov 7 '17 at 18:56
  • 1 serving (3 oz, 85 g) of beef spleen has 33.5 mg iron, which is 124% RDA. In a live animal, the spleen acts as a blood reservoir, so I assume, more blood (hemoglobin) and thus iron stays in it after cutting out than in the liver. – Jan Nov 8 '17 at 8:34

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