An essential mineral vital for human life, Iron helps produce the body’s energy source, adenosine triphosphate. Excessive iron is stored in the bone marrow, spleen and muscles.
What is Iron?
With only 3 to 4 grams in the body, the mineral iron is extremely crucial to perform various tasks. The most important element of several enzymes iron is required to produce haemoglobin, to transmit oxygen all through the body.
Types of dietary iron
Heme and non-Heme iron are the two types of dietary iron with the key dietary source of Heme iron being mainly non-vegetarian foods (animal products) that are easily absorbed. Non-Heme iron comprising of plant based foods, fortified foods and dairy products do not help in the absorption of iron completely as Heme iron.
Source : http://www.healthymeat.co.za/HealthWellness/IronDeficiencyAnaemia/tabid/173/Default.aspx
Food sources of Heme iron
Seafood sources of Heme iron are Mussels, Oysters, Clams, Sardines, Haddock and tuna. Meat sources include Pork, Beef, Extra lean ground beef, Sirloin, Prime rib, Liver, Rib eye, Lamb and Venison.Poultry sources rich in heme iron are Turkey and Chicken giblets, Pheasant, Goose and Egg
Food sources of Non-Heme iron
Food sources of non heme iron are Green leafy vegetables such as Broccoli, Spinach, Lettuce, Cabbage, Kale and Swiss chards.Herbs such as Asparagus, Blackstrap Molasses and Fenugreek. Vegetables such as Potato, Tomato, Carrots and Beet Root. Fruits such asPeaches, Plums, Apricots, Passion Fruit, watermelon and Prunes. Nuts that include Almonds, Walnuts, Cashew nuts, Pecans and Pistachios.Dry fruits likeDates, Raisins, fig, dried apricots and dried currants.
Seeds include Sunflower, sesame and Pumpkin seeds.Beans and lentils which include Beans, White beans, Soybean, Red kidney beans, Chickpeas, Lima Beans, Black-Eyed Peas and lentils. Whole grains such as Bran, Whole Wheat, Wheat Bran, Barley, Ragi, whole wheat Bread, Cornmeal, Quinoa and Millet. Fortified Breakfast cereals such as Muesli, bran flakes and raisin bran.
Functions of Iron
Formation of Haemoglobin
The red blood cells derive their hue from Haemoglobin. The stored iron imparts the required oxygen through Haemoglobin to the various cells in the body.
Iron is crucial for the muscles in the body. They transmit oxygen to the muscles through myoglobin and aid proper functioning of the muscles.
Improved energy levels
It is impossible without sufficient iron in the body to build adenosine triphosphate molecule, the main foundation for strength and vitality, produce DNA and perform other key developments.
Improved Cognitive Function
Apart from this Iron, facilitates cognitive function, concentration and excellent memory levels, and is vital for integration of nor epinephrine, dopamine, collagen and serotonin (neurotransmitters) thus preventing learning disabilities in children.
Promotes healthy immune system
Iron in combination with the DNA promotes body’s immunity to combat various disease and illness.
Regulate body temperature
Iron helps regulate body temperatures preventing sensitivity to heat and colds.
Prevents preterm labour
Iron prevents delivery problems, such as preterm labour, natural abortion, hemorrhage, helps with the babys birth weight, and perks up baby’s health post delivery.
Iron prevents insomnia by inducing sleep.
Prevents Restless leg syndrome
Iron deficiency leads to restless leg syndrome. Therefore, sufficient intake of iron is important to prevent the symptoms.
Shortage of iron in the body leads to anaemia, resulting in pale skin, loss of hair, exhaustion and palpitations.
The required daily allowance of iron is 10 milligram for children from birth to six months and 15 milligram from six months to four years of age.
While the requirement for a male over 19 years is 10 milligram, for those belonging to the age group of 10 and 18 the RDA is 18 milligram.
Women in the age group of 50 plus require 10 milligram while for those women from 11 to 50 years the RDA is 18 milligram.
Women (During pregnancy)
It is suggested that pregnant women need about 30 to 60 milligram of iron. However, in the case of pregnant women it would be best to consult a gynaecologist regarding the dosage of supplements.
Deficiency Symptoms of Iron
Most adults, children, teenagers and infants are deficit in iron. This is usually so in the case of non-meat eaters whose primary food is from the plant source. The deficiency symptoms associated with this mineral are exhaustion, bad temper, breathlessness during physical activity, anaemia, lack of skin pallor, irregular body temperature and light-headedness. Other symptoms include tachycardia or palpitations, frequent headaches, distended spleen, tongue soreness, loss of hair, brittle hair and lack of appetite in children. People with deficiency of iron also suffered from extreme bleeding during menstruation, bleeding of the respiratory tract, lack of immunity, bleeding of the gastrointestinal tract, slow stunted growth impaired cognition and haemorrhage.
Lack of iron can lead to a host of serious health issues that are most common in women and children.
Most babies born preterm are more susceptible to health problems than those babies born full term.
In babies and children, a deficiency in iron can lead to underdeveloped children with abnormal motor function, cognitive impairment, delayed development, learning disabilities, lack of appetite, health and vitality.
Insufficient iron in women leads to blood loss due to heavy menstrual bleeding, during reproductive years, besides fatigue, paleness of the skin, low immunity, poor concentration levels or intestinal worm infestation like tapeworm.
Iron deficiency in pregnant women often lead to anaemia, natural abortion, haemorrhage and premature delivery resulting in small babies weighing less than the standard normal weight.
Iron shortage leads to low platelet counts in adults, caused by frequent blood donation, low absorption of iron, or colorectal cancer, with severe bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.
Overdose of iron
Iron supplements administered to children in increased dosage may have serious consequences of tremendous toxicity in children resulting in kidney failure, damages to liver, metabolic acidosis, hypoxia besides bleeding and ulceration in the mucosa.
Surplus iron in the body can become toxic and lethal. A slow accumulation of iron in adults belonging to the 50 plus age group, results in Hemochromatosis, a condition caused due to excess storage of iron in the body resulting in a damaged heart, liver, pancreas and the joints.
High doses of ferrous iron have possibilities of interference with the peroxides in the body yielding free radicals. Iron ought to be used with utmost care in people with prior gastrointestinal problems such as gastritis, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, unsettled stomach, peptic ulcer, queasiness, and constipation. Too much of iron also interferes with the absorption of zinc, Vitamin B12, calcium, riboflavin, folate and vitamin A in the body. Other people who are at a risk of toxicity are those suffering from thalassemia and anaemia as iron increases due to advanced iron absorption.
Iron has a tendency to disturb the absorption of many drugs used for various ailments. Therefore, it would be wise to for iron supplements to be taken a couple of hours earlier or later than these medicines. Cholestyramine and Colestipol – Medications called bile acid sequestrants used to reduce cholesterol.
Anti ulcer medications
medications used to treat ulcers such as Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid, and Axid. These called H2 receptor blockers alter the pH balance in the abdomen interfering with iron absorption. There are possibilities of interactions other medications used for treating ulcers such as proton pump inhibitors and antacids, including Prilosec.
Iron reduces the absorption of certain other medicines
Antibiotics such as Vibramycin, Minocin, and Sumycin.
Antibiotics such as Cipro, Noroxin, and Levaquin.
These are medications used for treatment of hypertension like Capoten ,Vasotec, and Zestril or Prinivil.
Iron may diminish the efficacy or blood levels of certain medicines like
Carbidopa and Levodopa
Iron slash blood levels of Sinemet, although there isn’t enough evidence if these changes decrease the efficiency of the medicines.
Iron has a tendency to cut down the usefulness of hormones used for thyroid replacement therapy, Levothyroxine .
Iron levels have a possibility of being elevated with use of other drugs like
Oral contraceptives or medicines taken for birth control have chances of elevating the amount of iron, with a reduced need for surplus iron.