Iron

What is Iron?

Iron is a mineral that functions as a primary transporter within the human body. Iron works to carry oxygen from the lungs to blood cells and alternatively carries out carbon dioxide as waste. Iron works primarily in the myoglobin of muscles and the hemoglobin of red blood cells. Both myoglobin and hemoglobin are proteins that the body uses to produce muscle tissue and blood cells.

There are two types of iron that can be consumed. Haeme and non-haeme iron are both absorbed by the body. Haeme iron comes from meat sources while non-haeme iron comes from plant-based materials. While haeme iron is usually absorbed more efficiently, studies have shown that iron levels in vegetable-based foods can be increased by utilizing cast-iron cookware in the kitchen.

What does Iron do?

As a trace mineral in the body, iron provides the necessary transport means for moving oxygen throughout bodily systems fluidly. Additionally, it can aide in the repair and replication and differentiation of cells. The majority of iron content within the body is located in red blood cells, however, it is possible that small amounts are contained in enzymes and muscle tissues.

Where is Iron found?

Iron that aides in dietary balance is found in both meat and plant products that can be consumed. Iron that is absorbed through meat products is usually more effective, however, plant-based iron, which combined with Vitamin C can also be extremely effective. Some of the most common iron-rich products include: oats, legumes, spinach, poultry, fish and meats.

Iron is also available as an over-the-counter dietary supplement in capsule form. It is advised that individuals looking to take iron supplements speak to a doctor in advance in order to avoid adverse symptoms of too much iron in their system. These symptoms may include fatigue, aggressive behavior, hyperactivity, headaches, liver damage and weight loss. All of these symptoms could potentially lead to serious medical conditions or could even be fatal.

What happens when someone has a Iron deficiency?

Iron deficiencies result in not enough oxygen being provided to red blood cells for reproduction and productivity. The visible symptoms of iron deficiency include: fatigue, memory loss, low immunity resistance, tongue soreness and even anemia. Woman in particular need to take steps to avoid iron deficiency due to menstruation and associated blood loss. Additionally, pregnant woman should pay particularly close attention to iron levels as a majority of their iron supply is being passed on to their child and needs to be supplemented. Iron deficiencies can also present themselves in young children who are outgrowing their supply because of the rapid rate of development. Athletes also pose a greater risk for iron deficiencies as strenuous exercise on a regular basis tends to lower iron levels rather quickly.

Helpful food sources, supplements and additional benefits of Iron

Vitamin C has been shown to help in overall iron absorption and is often recommended as an additional supplement to take alongside iron. Copper is also a recommended source for helping to aid in the metabolism of iron.

Iron – AIs (Adequate Intakes)

Infants
0-6 months
Milligrams per Day
0.27

 

Iron – RDAs (Recommended Dietary Allowances)

Vegetarians need more Iron intake than non-vegetarians.

Infants
7-12 months
Milligrams per Day
11
Children
1-3 years
4-8 years

7
10
Males
9-13 years
14-18 years
19-30 years
31-50 years
50-70 years
> 70 years

8
11
8
8
8
8
Females
9-13 years
14-18 years
19-30 years
31-50 years
50-70 years
> 70 years

8
15
18
18
8
8
Pregnancy
< 19 years
19-30 years
31-50 years

27
27
27
Lactation
< 19 years
19-30 years
31-50 years

10
9
9

 

Sources:

http://vsearch.nlm.nih.gov/vivisimo/cgi-bin/query-meta?v%3Aproject=medlineplus&query=iron&x=12&y=9
http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-912-IRON.aspx?activeIngredientId=912&activeIngredientName=IRON&source=2
http://www.vitalhealthzone.com/nutrition/minerals/iron.html
http://nutrition.about.com/od/mineralglossary/g/iron.htm
USDA Dietary Reference Intakes