The IEEE 754-2008 standard, "An IEEE Standard for Binary Floating-Point Arithmetic", defines denormal (or subnormal) numbers as non-zero numbers smaller than the smallest possible normalized numbers for a specific floating-point format. Floating-point operations on denormals are slower than on normalized operands because denormal operands and results are usually handled through a software assist mechanism rather than directly in hardware. This software processing causes Intel MKL functions that consume denormals to run slower than with normalized floating-point numbers.
You can mitigate this performance issue by setting the appropriate bit fields in the MXCSR floating-point control register to flush denormals to zero (FTZ) or to replace any denormals loaded from memory with zero (DAZ). Check your compiler documentation to determine whether it has options to control FTZ and DAZ. Note that these compiler options may slightly affect accuracy.