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Ferrous Sulphate vs. Iron Polymaltose: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 3, 2024
Ferrous sulphate is an iron salt used in supplements, while iron polymaltose is a complex iron form used for treating iron deficiency with fewer side effects.

Key Differences

Ferrous sulphate, a form of iron salt, is commonly used in iron supplements for treating anemia. Iron polymaltose is an iron carbohydrate complex, offering a different approach to iron supplementation, typically with fewer gastrointestinal side effects.
The body absorbs ferrous sulphate efficiently, but it can cause gastrointestinal discomfort in some individuals. Iron polymaltose, with its complex structure, is designed for better gastrointestinal tolerance, reducing the risk of side effects like constipation or nausea.
Ferrous sulphate supplements are often the first line of treatment for iron deficiency due to their cost-effectiveness and wide availability. In contrast, iron polymaltose is sometimes preferred for patients who cannot tolerate ferrous sulphate or for long-term supplementation.
The absorption of ferrous sulphate can be affected by food and certain medications, requiring careful timing of doses. Iron polymaltose's absorption is less influenced by dietary factors, offering more flexibility in dosing.
In treating iron deficiency, ferrous sulphate typically shows a faster response in terms of increasing hemoglobin levels. Iron polymaltose, while slower to show effects, provides a sustained release of iron, which can be beneficial for maintaining iron levels over time.

Comparison Chart

Chemical Form

Iron salt
Iron carbohydrate complex

Side Effects

Higher likelihood of gastrointestinal issues
Lower risk of gastrointestinal side effects

Cost and Availability

More cost-effective and widely available
Relatively more expensive and less widely available

Absorption Influences

Affected by food and medication interactions
Less affected by dietary factors

Response Time

Faster increase in hemoglobin levels
Slower but sustained iron release

Ferrous Sulphate and Iron Polymaltose Definitions

Ferrous Sulphate

It's commonly used due to its effectiveness and affordability.
Ferrous sulphate is a popular choice in resource-limited settings for treating anemia.

Iron Polymaltose

It's often used when patients can't tolerate traditional iron supplements.
Due to her sensitive stomach, iron polymaltose was the preferred choice for her anemia treatment.

Ferrous Sulphate

Ferrous sulphate is an iron supplement used to treat iron deficiency anemia.
The doctor prescribed ferrous sulphate to increase her low iron levels.

Iron Polymaltose

Iron polymaltose is a complex form of iron used in supplements to treat iron deficiency.
Her doctor recommended iron polymaltose as it's gentler on the stomach.

Ferrous Sulphate

Ferrous sulphate can cause gastrointestinal side effects in some patients.
He experienced constipation after starting ferrous sulphate.

Iron Polymaltose

Iron polymaltose releases iron slowly for sustained absorption.
Iron polymaltose helped maintain her iron levels without spikes or drops.

Ferrous Sulphate

It's a form of iron salt that is readily absorbed by the body.
Ferrous sulphate is often taken on an empty stomach for better absorption.

Iron Polymaltose

It's designed for better gastrointestinal tolerance compared to ferrous salts.
Iron polymaltose was prescribed to avoid the digestive issues he had with other iron supplements.

Ferrous Sulphate

Its absorption can be affected by dietary factors like phytates and tannins.
She was advised to avoid tea and coffee near her ferrous sulphate doses to enhance iron absorption.

Iron Polymaltose

This form of iron is less likely to interact with foods and medications.
She could take iron polymaltose with meals, making it easier to integrate into her routine.


What is ferrous sulphate used for?

It's primarily used to treat and prevent iron deficiency anemia.

How quickly does ferrous sulphate work?

It often shows a faster response in increasing hemoglobin levels.

Should ferrous sulphate be taken with food?

It's often taken on an empty stomach for better absorption, but food can reduce side effects.

Can children take ferrous sulphate?

Yes, but the dosage should be carefully adjusted based on age and weight.

Is iron polymaltose better absorbed than ferrous sulphate?

It's absorbed differently, offering sustained release, but ferrous sulphate is absorbed more quickly.

Is iron polymaltose safe for long-term use?

Yes, its slow-release mechanism makes it suitable for long-term treatment.

Can iron polymaltose cause constipation?

It's less likely to cause constipation than ferrous salts.

Can ferrous sulphate cause side effects?

Yes, it can cause gastrointestinal issues like nausea, constipation, and stomach pain.

What makes iron polymaltose different from ferrous sulphate?

Iron polymaltose is a complex form of iron with better gastrointestinal tolerance.

Can iron polymaltose be taken alongside meals?

Yes, its absorption is less affected by food, allowing more flexibility.

Is ferrous sulphate affordable?

Yes, it's generally more affordable and widely available than other iron supplements.

How does vitamin C affect ferrous sulphate absorption?

Vitamin C can enhance the absorption of ferrous sulphate.

Can pregnant women take iron polymaltose?

Yes, it's often recommended for pregnant women, especially those who can't tolerate ferrous salts.

Who should take iron polymaltose?

Those who experience side effects with ferrous salts or need long-term supplementation.

Does iron polymaltose interact with medications?

It has fewer interactions compared to ferrous salts.

Does ferrous sulphate affect stool color?

Yes, it can darken the stool, which is a harmless effect.

Should iron polymaltose be taken at a specific time?

It offers more flexibility, but it's best to follow a consistent schedule.

Does iron polymaltose require a prescription?

It's often prescribed, but some formulations may be available over the counter.

Can ferrous sulphate treat severe anemia?

Yes, it's effective for treating different degrees of iron deficiency.

What are the signs of ferrous sulphate overdose?

Symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, and in severe cases, organ failure.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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