Iron is used by your body to produce haemoglobin which is a red protein in the blood cells that carries the oxygen around in your body. It is crucial for the metabolism of your muscles, neurological development, physical growth and simply for your cells to function properly.
Even though iron is a mineral that can be found naturally in many different foods it is also available as supplements and is additionally added to some food products as well.

 

According to WHO (World Health Organization), more than 30% of the world are anemic due to an iron deficiency – that’s approximately 2 billion people.

The deficiencies are mostly common amongst women of reproductive age, pregnant women but also amongst young children. For the women it’s often a result of blood loss due to menstruation and pregnancy but also very often a result of a poor diet and linked with other nutrient deficiencies

Iron deficiencies can in some cases display the following symptoms:

  • Decreased mental surplus
  • Being intolerant to cold weather
  • Tiredness, dizziness and weakness
  • Dyspnea when exercising
  • Heart palpitations
  • Restless leg syndrome

Being optimal on iron

There are no optimal values for iron, and the recommended intakes vary a lot. However, there have been made the recommended intakes for adults by NIH (National Institute of Health) as you can see below:

  • Male, 7-9mg
  • Female, 17-19mg
  • Pregnancy, 26-29mg
  • Lactation, 8-10mg

The reason behind the increased recommendations of iron intake for women is because of the increased needs during pregnancy and the blood loss from menstruation

If you believe you might have deficiencies and you’re considering supplementing and/or changing your diet, you should always consult with your health practitioner beforehand. It is possible to “overdose” on iron which can lead to nausea, vomiting, gastric upset, vomiting, faintness and in some cases be very serious

Food sources if iron

Dietary iron is present in two forms – heme and nonheme. Heme iron has a higher bioavailability than non heme and is easily found in meat (especially red meat), poultry and seafood where nonheme can be found in some plants and iron-fortified foods

The richest sources of iron is in general found in seafood and especially lean meat. According to BDA (The Association of UK Dietitians you can see below a table of selected iron rich food sources:

 

 

Iron supplements

You can easily increase your intake of iron by changing your diet. If you are limited by allergies/intolerances and can’t get the recommended amounts through your diet you can also get it through dietary supplements. Just be aware of the recommendations since they vary so much between race and sociodemographic factors that there is an actual risk of obtaining excess iron. You should always consult your health practitioner before supplementing iron, or at least know your own values through a blood test.

You can find Iron in many different types of dietary supplements and also in combined products such as multivitamins and multimineral supplements.

 

 

SOURCE
  1. National Institue of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Iron – Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, 2019.
  2. World Health Organization. Conclusions and recommendations of the WHO consultation on prevention and control of iron deficiency in infants and young children in malaria-endemic areas. Food Nutr Bull 28: S621–S627, 2007.
  3. Aggett PJ. Iron. In: Erdman JW, Macdonald IA, Zeisel SH, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. 10th ed. Washington, DC: Wiley-Blackwell; 2012:506-20.
  4. Miller, J.L. Iron Deficiency Anemia: A Common and Curable Disease: US National Library of Medicine National institutes of Health, 2013
  5. National Institue of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Iron – Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, 2019.
  6. Scholl TO. Maternal iron status: relation to fetal growth, length of gestation, and iron endowment of the neonate. Nutr Rev 2011;69 Suppl 1:S23-9. 2011
  7. Manoguerra AS, Erdman AR, Booze LL, Christianson G, Wax PM, Scharman EJ, et al. Iron ingestion: an evidence-based consensus guideline for out-of-hospital management. Clin Toxicol (Phila) 2005
  8. Aggett PJ. Iron. In: Erdman JW, Macdonald IA, Zeisel SH, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. 10th ed. Washington, DC: Wiley-Blackwell; 2012
  9. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015.
  10. Bacon BR, Adams PC, Kowdley KV, Powell LW, Tavill AS. Diagnosis and management of hemochromatosis: 2011 practice guideline by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. Hepatology 2011