What is iron?

Iron is a macro element , meaning it is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body. It is found in the body’s red blood cells, which carry oxygen-rich blood to every cell in the body.  Iron is also involved in producing adenosine triphosphate, which is the body’s energy source. It is a key element in the metabolism of almost all living organisms.

What is the function of iron?

Iron is a key component of hemoglobin and myoglobin, which are two proteins involved in the transport and storage of oxygen. Hemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, while myoglobin supplies oxygen to the muscles, and more. Myoglobin also functions in the activity of many enzymes, as well as the body’s need to produce certain hormones and connective tissue. In humans, iron is an essential component of hundreds of proteins and enzymes.

Which foods are rich in iron?

Foods rich in iron include livermeat and fish. Many vegetables also contain good quantities of this mineral, in particular legumes (such as beans, peas and lentils), cereals, dried fruits and green leafy vegetables (such as spinach). Unfortunately, the form of iron found in foods of plant origin is less absorbable than that of foods of animal origin. To address this issue, individuals should rely on the combination of vegetable sources of iron-rich foods with vitamin C , such as lemon and peppers, which facilitate absorption.

What is the recommended daily requirement of iron?

The  recommended daily intake of iron for an adult is 14 mg. However, the daily requirement varies depending on the individual’s age, sex and special conditions such as pregnancy and lactation. In general, women need to take a larger amount of iron than men.

What are the consequences of iron deficiency?

Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, which is a condition that causes a reduction in the amount of red blood cells in the blood. In turn, the ability to deliver oxygen to tissues and organs is reduced. The most common symptoms of anemia include fatigue, lack of energy, gastrointestinal disorders, impaired memory and concentration, decreased immunity, and temperature control problems.  In addition, iron deficiency in pregnancy can affect the development of the nervous system of the infant and increase the risk of low birth weight and premature delivery.

What are the consequences of excessive iron intake?

Excessive iron intake can trigger problems in the stomach, constipation, nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain and fainting and can reduce the absorption of zinc. Very high doses of iron (on the order of hundreds of grams) can also cause more severe problems such as organ failure, coma, convulsions and prove fatal. Too much iron can also lead to a medical condition known as hemochromatosis, which leads to the accumulation of toxic amounts of iron to the body. Without treatment, the individual may experience cirrhosis , liver cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Why should women who are pregnant take larger amounts of iron?

During pregnancy, the amount of blood circulating throughout the body increases, in turn increasing the demand for iron. Women who are pregnant require larger amounts of iron to meet their needs as well as that of the child’s, and ensure proper growth and development.