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Iron in the Human Body - Sources, Role, Deficiency, and Supplementation

July 04, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 155

Human beings need iron to stay alive; yes, for it is iron that enables the transportation of oxygen to the cells. A healthy adult will have between 4 to 5 grams of it in the body. Almost 65% of the mineral is present in the hemoglobin and used for supplying oxygen to all parts of the body. The liver, bone marrow, and spleen are important storehouses of it where the reserves are stored.

Iron is essential for proper functioning of the immune system. The production of red blood cells is dependent on it; it enables hemoglobin to bind with oxygen which is delivered to the cells. Subsequently, the mineral binds with the carbon dioxide which is then exhaled. Sugar in the blood is converted into usable energy with the help of iron.

The body's daily requirements are not difficult to fulfill as there are enough and more naturally available sources of dietary iron. The best sources include dried legumes, egg yolks, whole grains, poultry, oysters, salmon, tuna, and liver. The sources of iron are categorized into heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is always from an animal source and is absorbed more easily by the human body as compared to non-heme iron. A food item that supplies 20% or more of the daily intake value of iron can be considered a very good source of this element. 8mg of iron per day is the recommended daily intake for adults.

Anemia is the most common fallout of low iron levels. A poor diet is often the cause behind a fall in iron reserves in the body. Symptoms of low iron levels in the body include lethargy, weakness, headaches, weight loss and dizziness.

People at risk of iron deficiency include expectant women, vegetarians and vegans, athletes, individuals with stomach ulcers and those who are unable to absorb iron for any reason. Some individuals may complain of shortness of breath and also exhibit distinct changes in behavior. Behavioral changes and incapability to focus are of particular significance with respect to children with iron deficiency because these can have a deleterious effect on their academic performance. Children between the ages of one and four years use iron because of growth spurts during this period and therefore their iron requirements should be met with food and if need be with supplements.

Factors that influence the body's absorption of iron include extent of iron in blood, the rate at which red blood corpuscles are being produced, and the amount of oxygen in the blood.

If for some reason the body's mechanism for iron absorption does not work properly then individuals develop a condition known as hemochromatosis, a genetic condition characterized by too much iron in the body. Iron toxicity can occur if too much iron is ingested; this is more of a concern with kids that may overdose of flavored iron supplement syrups. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss.

Tim Laker takes keen interest in the field of laparoscopic surgery and occasionally writes on the subject.

Source: EzineArticles
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