Iron is an essential trace element for the formation of red blood cells, which are the ones that carry oxygen to all of the cells of the organism. Therefore it is crucial for the supply of energy to the body and mind.
The symptoms of an iron deficiency usually appear in the form of fatigue, paleness, hair loss, and brittle nails. A lack of iron in the blood especially affects women, vegetarians, and vegans.
Iron provides the red color of the cells that distribute the oxygen inhaled by the lungs, through the bloodstream to all the body. The liver and spleen contain the iron reserves that the body needs.
The body cannot synthesise this mineral on its own, which is why it demands a regular supply of this basic trace element. Each day the body loses approximately 1 mg of iron through the intestine, kidneys, and skin. The daily iron requirements are different for each person, depending on the sex, age, lifestyle and physical state.
It is necessary for the formation of blood in the bone marrow. The iron that the body absorbs is deposited in the blood cells which distribute the oxygen to the rest of the cells.
Like this, oxygen enters the muscles where it is stored, and produces cell energy and chemical elements needed by the brain.
Iron is recommended for:
Cases of individuals who need a higher supply of this mineral, such as sportspeople, athletes, pregnant or lactating women, people who are going through growth stages (puberty), or people who are going to spend long periods of time in areas of high altitude.
When there is an insufficient nutrients supply, as in the case of vegetarian or vegan diets.
When there is a loss of blood for various reasons: surgery, accidents, blood donation, or menstruation.
For old people
Iron and anaemia
Iron is vital for the hemoglobin synthesis, and it becomes a key factor in the binding of this protein to oxygen.
When the body has little iron available due to blood loss, malnutrition, or the inability of the body to assimilate enough of it, a very low quantity of hemoglobin and less erythrocytes are produced. This leads to a deterioration of the blood's ability to carry out the vital task of oxygenating the tissues
This is called an iron deficiency anemia.
Iron deficiency anemia is a common disorder which is easily cured in most cases. It is usually treated with an iron supplement.
However, this mineral is not the only key element in the production of red blood cells by the bone marrow. Vitamin B12 and folic acid are also required in generous amounts. A lack of at least one of them also causes other types of anemia.
What foods contain Iron?
The amount of iron in food is very different in each case. The main foods that contain absorbable iron are those of animal origin, especially the liver, kidneys, and visceras.
The concentration of iron varies significantly in vegetable foods, among which legumes, cereals (wholemeal), walnuts, and parsley stand out.
What are the symptoms of an Iron deficiency?
An iron deficiency occur especially in large cities and it affects millions of people. The are multiple causes and they vary from one area to another.
The common symptoms of an iron deficiency include:
A balanced diet should normally meet the daily requirements of our body. In stressful situations or under certain circumstances we may have a greater requirements, so it is very useful to use a dietary supplement of iron in order to meet them.
In general, the daily recommended intake of iron is around 10mg in normal circumstances, or 15mg when there is an extra need. When the body has an iron deficiency it may take several months until it recovers.
A solution to quickly recover the levels of this trace element is to add a supplement to the diet. It is also very important to have a good compatibility with the selected product.
Some iron supplements can cause gastrointestinal irritation and constipation problems. But there is a unique form of iron, the chelated type (iron bisglycinate) that has been formulated to improve its absorption and it is gentle on the body (non-aggressive).
Lack of iron in children
In recent years, the lack of iron has been reduced by developing formulas and foods, for babies and children, that have been enriched with this mineral and which were released in the 1970's. However, studies reveal that children do not consume enough iron, since a 4% of the children of six months of age and a 12% of those of 12 months of age have a lack of this important mineral.
A lack of iron occurs in a 6.6% to 15.2% of children aged between 1 and 3 years of age, depending on ethnicity and socio-economic status.
Preterm newborn infants, babies who drink only breast milk, and babies who may probably develop disabilities are at greater risk. With iron supplementation for all children this trace element deficiency may be reduced.
The opinion of nutritionists and experts about iron
1. The spinach myth
For many years we have heard the rumor that spinach is rich in iron. However, we now know that the oxalic acid contained in spinach may actually have an inhibitory effect and prevent the proper absorption of this mineral by the body.
2. Factors that facilitate or inhibit the absorption of iron by the body
According to the most recent clinical studies, coffee or black tea consumption also reduces the absorption of iron by the body.
Fruit and vegetables rich in vitamin C, such as freshly squeezed orange juice, facilitate the absorption of iron by the body. In general, only around 10 percent of the iron supplied through food is used by the body.
Side effects and interactions of Iron
Dietary iron supplements are completely safe and have no side effects. The instructions in each product provide more detailed information.
People who are taking any medication, pregnant or lactating women, as well as those who suffer from kidney diseases, should consult their doctor before consuming any iron nutritional supplements.
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