Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Iron

iron completeIron is among the most abundant minerals in the earth’s crust. Yet, iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world.

Functions

• Transporting oxygen in the blood.
• Co-factor in energy metabolism
• Plays a role in brain development
• Builds immunity
• Fights fatigue

Total body iron averages a little less than 4 grams in men and a little more than 2 grams in women.

Iron Absorption

When it comes to iron absorption intestinal cells act as gatekeepers. People short on iron soak more of it. Depending on need, iron absorption can vary from less than 1 percent to greater than 50 percent. Once intestinal cells admit iron, they can use it immediately, release it in the blood or store it for later.

Facts

• On average, adult men absorb about 6 percent of dietary iron.
• Women absorb higher proportion to make up for iron losses from menstruation.
• Non-pregnant women of childbearing age absorb about 13 percent.
• Elderly people absorb less iron, as they make less of stomach acid.

Iron Blockers

• Whole grains contain phytate, which inhibits iron absorption.
• Calcium, zinc and iron compete for absorption and each can inhibit absorption of another.
• Tea and coffee inhibit iron absorption.

Extra Iron

• Vegetarians
• Pregnant women
• Marathon runners
• People suffering from gatro-intestinal disorders

Sources

Dietary iron comes in two forms—heme and non-heme.

Human body has a preference for heme sources. They include—oysters, meat, poultry and fish.
Non-heme iron is found in plant sources, in dried fruits, and iron supplements. Add vitamin C from citrus fruits to increase absorption.

Supplements

• Before starting a supplement, get your doctor’s advice. Iron pills can be hard on the digestive system.
• Normally men do not need iron supplements.
• Stay away from dairy products, spinach, tea or coffee, whole grain breads and cereals, antacids and calcium supplements for at least two hours before taking an iron supplement.
• Keep iron pills away from children. An accidental overdose on iron pills can cause the death of a small child.

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Category: Minerals
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