Category : Nutrition & You
Iron, one of the most abundant metals on Earth, is essential to most life forms and to normal human physiology. Iron is an integral part of many proteins and enzymes that maintain good health. In humans, iron is an essential component of proteins involved in oxygen transport. It is also essential for the regulation of cell growth and differentiation. Iron is a mineral. Most of the iron in the body is found in the hemoglobin of red blood cells and in the myoglobin of muscle cells. Iron is needed for transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide. It also has other important roles in the body.
A deficiency of iron limits oxygen delivery to cells, resulting in fatigue, poor work performance and decreased immunity.
Signs of iron deficiency
- feeling tired and weak
- decreased work and school performance
- slow cognitive and social development during childhood
- decreased immune function, which increases susceptibility to infection
Who may need extra iron to prevent a deficiency
Three Groups people are most likely to benefit from iron supplements: people with a greater need for iron, individuals who tend to lose more iron, and people who do not absorb iron normally. These individuals include.
- Pregnant women
- Preterm and low birth weight infants
- Older infants and toddlers
- Teenage girls
- Women of childbearing age, especially those with heavy menstrual losses
- People with renal failure, especially those undergoing routine dialysis
- People with gastrointestinal disorders who do not absorb iron normally
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective,ineffective and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness for IRON are as follows:
- Anemia caused by chronic disease. Many diseases such as cancer, kidney problems or heart problems can cause anemia. Taking iron along with other medications can help build red blood cells and reverse anemia in people with kidney problems or being treated for cancer with chemotherapy.
- Learning problems. Taking iron might help improve thinking, learning and memory in children with low levels of iron
- Heart Failure. Up to 20% of people who have heart failure also have low levels of iron in the body. Some research shows that giving iron intravenously can improve some symptoms of heart failure.
- Fatigue. There is some early evidence that iron supplements might improve unexplained fatigue in non-anemic women.
- Improving athletic performance.
- Canker sores.
- Female infertility.
- Heavy menstrual bleeding.
- Restless leg syndrome.
How does it works?
Iron helps red blood cells deliver oxygen from the lungs to cells all over the body. Once the oxygen is delivered, iron then helps red blood cells carry carbon dioxide waste back to the lungs to be exhaled. Iron also plays a role in many important chemical reactions in the body.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the body doesn’t absorb iron from non-meat sources quite as easily as it does from meat. However, you can help absorption by combining iron-rich foods with food or drinks rich in vitamin C, so as having a glass or orange juice with your meal. Both tea and coffee also reduce the absorption of iron, so it’s better to drink these at least half an hour before you eat or two hours afterwards.
What is the recommended intake foe iron?
Recommendations for iron are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) developed by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences
Table: Recommended Dietary Allowances
There are two types of iron you can get from food: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body. The best dietary sources of heme iron are liver and other organ meats, lean red meat,poultry,fish and shellfish.
Sources of non-heme iron include dried beans and peas, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, dark molasses, and green leafy vegetables. Some nutrients help the body better absorb this kind of iron
Anemia:- The most important use of iron supplements is to treat iron deficiency anemia.Anemia is low levels of iron in the blood. Iron is important because it is a key component of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to the entire body.lack of energy. Studies have found that taking iron supplements improved sports performance in those who had slightly low levels of iron.
Cough associated with ACE inhibitor use
One side effect of taking angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors to treat high blood pressure and heart failure is an irritating dry cough. The cough leads some people to stop taking their medications. One preliminary clinical study suggested that iron supplementation may soothe and even prevent cough associated with ACE inhibitors. It is important to note that taking ACE inhibitors at the same time as iron may lower the amount of iron absorbed by the body. If used together, the two should be taken at least two hours apart. However in this case before taking iron supplement you should consult your health care provider.
Safety concerns, Special precautions & warnings:
Iron is LIKELY SAFE for most people when it is used appropriately. However, non-palatable iron can cause side effects including stomach upset and pain, constipation or diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Taking iron supplements with food seems to reduce some of these side effects. But food can also reduce how well the body absorbed iron. Iron should be taken on an empty stomach if possible. But if it causes too many side effects, it can be taken with food. Try to avoid taking it with foods containing dairy products, coffee, tea, or cereals. Liquid iron supplements may blacken teeth.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Iron is LIKELY SAFE for pregnant and breast-feeding women who have enough iron stored in their bodies when used in doses below the tolerable upper intake level (UL) of 45 mg per day of elemental iron. The UL is the highest level of intake at which no harmful side effects are expected. However, iron is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth in high doses
Hemoglobin disease, such as thalassemia: Taking iron might cause iron overload in people with these conditions. If you have a hemoglobin disease, don’t take iron unless directed to do so by your healthcare provider.
May or May Not Be Effective With:
Vitamin C :
Taking vitamin C and iron together helps the body absorb the iron. It doesn’t matter whether the vitamin C comes from food or a supplement. But, taking a vitamin C supplement to improve absorption of iron probably isn’t necessary for most people,
especially if their diet contains plenty of vitamin C.
Dairy products :
Calcium in dairy products such as milk and cheese can reduce the absorption of iron from food and supplements. This probably isn’t a problem for people who have enough iron stored in their bodies. But if you need iron, take iron supplements with a meal that is relatively low in dairy products whenever possible. People may say you’ll get the best absorption of iron on an empty stomach, but this increases the risk of stomach irritation. Don’t risk it. You’re better off taking iron with a low-calcium meal
Antibiotics (Quinolone antibiotics) :
Iron might decrease how much antibiotic the body absorbs. Taking iron along with some antibiotics might decrease the effectiveness of some antibiotics. To avoid this interaction take iron two hours before or two hours after taking antibiotics.