What is iron?
Iron is one of the most abundant metals on earth, necessary to most life forms and vital for human existence.
What is iron function?
Iron comprises part of the hemoglobin in the blood that carries oxygen from the lungs. It is part of the enzymes used in the digestion of food. It is vital for cell growth.
What foods are good sources of iron?
There are two forms of dietary iron: heme, which is iron found in animal proteins, and nonheme, which is contained in plant-based foods; and is the iron added and labeled as iron-fortified or iron-enriched. Heme iron is better absorbed by the body; good sources include chicken liver, oysters, beef, dark meat turkey and chicken, and tuna. Good nonheme sources include fortified breads and cereals, beans, spinach and lentils.
What amount of iron for good health?
For men ages 19 and older, the Recommended Dietary Allowance of iron is 8 milligrams per day. For women ages 19 to 50, the RDA is 18 mg/day, but lowers to 8 mg/day after age 50, when childbearing years have ended for most women.
How does iron deficiency occur?
Iron deficiency can occur due to illness or need which depletes the bodys store, inability to absorb iron or insufficient intake through diet.
Infants and children need additional iron due to their rapid growth, and it is sometimes difficult for them to get it through diet. Women who are pregnant or nursing have a greater need for iron. Anyone who experiences blood loss, whether by accident, heavy menstruation or frequent blood donations, also loses iron. Vegetarians do not get the better-absorbed heme iron. Patients with certain gastric disorders, including celiac disease and Crohns Syndrome, have difficulty absorbing iron.
What are the symptoms/results of iron deficiency?
Symptoms of iron deficiency include a feeling of weakness, lethargy, difficulty in maintaining body temperature, the onset of pica (consuming nonfood substances such as dirt and clay) and susceptibility to infection.
How can iron deficiency be treated/prevented?
Eating a variety of iron-rich foods is the best way to prevent iron deficiency. Iron supplements are available, and are usually given in small doses several times a day, to prevent gastric distress, a possible side effect of these supplements.
Iron deficiency treatment and interactions
Iron supplements should only be taken under a doctors care; there is great risk of iron toxicity; since very little is excreted from the body. Excess iron is stored in organs such as the liver and heart, causing cirrhosis of the liver and heart failure; damage that often goes undetected until after it is done. Individuals with blood disorders requiring frequent blood transfusions are usually advised to avoid iron supplements. The established tolerable upper intake level for iron for men and women age 19 and older is 45 mg/day.