In Italy three out of ten people suffer from iron deficiency, one of the most important elements for our body: it is a macroelement, that is one of the minerals present in the body in higher quantities.

Dr. Manuela Pastore, dietician of the Endocrinology Unit in Humanitas, spoke about it in an interview. They remember how much this element is fundamental for our life and for the correct functioning of our whole body.

“Iron is essential: the most important aspect of iron is that it is used to transport oxygen throughout the body, because it is a fundamental component of hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body) and is essential for cellular respiration and the transport of oxygen to the muscles,” explained Dr. Pastore.

Iron and nutrition: diversity of absorption

Iron is a substance found in both animal foods – such as red meat and chicken, but also in fish and eggs – and vegetable foods, such as spinach and all green leafy vegetables, cabbage, dried fruit or whole grains.

However, there is a diversity of absorption by our body, as explained by Pastore: “iron derived from animals is more absorbed by our body, because it binds to specific proteins for assimilation, while it is more difficult and the absorption of iron contained in vegetable foods. The risk is therefore to absorb less of it”.

The absorption is also “variable from person to person, even more so if in the presence of certain situations or diseases – clarified the dietitian -. Women of childbearing age and sportsmen, for example, or even those who suffer from disorders of intestinal absorption and food intolerance are more prone to iron deficiency.

Iron deficiency: symptoms and diagnosis

The first symptom perceived by those who are lacking this substance is certainly fatigue: “the lack of iron and consequently oxygen leads to greater muscle fatigue and a general feeling of fatigue, tiredness” and exhaustion.

Early diagnosis is especially important to understand and investigate the causes of this disorder, for example to clarify “whether it is due to a higher need, a greater loss or finally a bad absorption. Anaemias can be of different types: even though they have the same symptoms,” specified Pastor.

How to intervene in case of low iron reserves

“The first step is undoubtedly nutrition, so the consumption of substances and foods that help the absorption of iron such as vitamin C; subsequently it will be necessary to review the diet and understand if the usual foods are sufficient to our needs of iron. Later on, if the disorder remains, you can use fortified iron foods and only after consultation with a specialist and in particular clinical situations you can use supplements, which should always be kept under medical supervision,” concluded the dietician.