Iron, essential mineral for our body
Iron is an essential mineral that has very important functions in our organism. It makes it possible to synthesize hemoglobin, the red blood cell protein that transports oxygen to body tissues. At the same time, Iron is also used to replenish reserves and restore haemoglobin concentrations to normal levels, preventing and treating emerging symptoms, with benefits such as improved quality of life, physical performance, thermoregulation, cognitive function and immune function.
Some population groups are more prone to suffer from iron deficiency. For example, it is common during menstruation in women with excessive bleeding, it is also common in pregnant women (their body needs more iron), children and adolescents. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that iron-deficiency anaemia affects 24.8% of the world’s population, with children and women being the most affected groups.
Through skin scaling, urine and feces, our body loses an average of 0.5 to 1 iron mg/day in case of adult men and between 0.7 to 2 iron mg in case of fertile women. For this reason, the recommended iron daily allowance is 10 to 18 mg/day. Iron demands grow in certain phases of life like the fertile period of women’s life, pregnancy, lactation (due to iron increased demands) and in periods of growth (adolescence).
What is Anemia
Most common anemia is Ferropenic anemia which occurs when the body does not have enough iron. It consists of a fall in hemoglobin concentration and subsequently a reduction of the blood oxygen transport capacity. Usual anemia symptoms are tiredness, fatigue, weakness, irritability, paleness, lack of appetite, nausea, diarrhoea, mouth ulcers and hair loss.
Ferropenic anemia is the most common nutritional deficiency disease in the world and continues to be the first cause of anemia during childhood. Apart from iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid are necessary in order to produce red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is found in meat and green vegetables, while folic acid is mainly present in vegetables. Of course, we should take special care of our diet and make sure we regularly take iron-rich foods.
How we supply Iron to the body
Red meat is one of the best sources of iron in the diet. This nutrient can also be found in oily fish, in thighs and wings of chicken and turkey, in certain dried fruits, seeds, in dark green vegetables, iron-enriched breakfast cereals, clams, oysters, mussels, fish, pulses (mainly lentils, chickpeas and beans), oily nuts like almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts. In addition to this, and always keeping a healthy and balanced diet, iron absorption can be improved by taking fruits that are rich in vitamin C. Fruits also contain fructose, a natural sugar that is easily assimilated and favours the absorption of iron.
As above mentioned, there are life periods in which an iron-rich diet may not be enough for keeping optimum iron levels. Being necessary to resort to iron supplementation. There is a variety of iron supplements available in the market. Among them, it is preferable those in which iron is easily absorbed by the body (specifically ferrous forms) and supplements that are enriched with vitamins, fruits, vegetables and/or cereals.
Did you know?
The use of ferrous gluconate, in synergy with vitamins B, A, D, C and E, significantly decreases anemia in more than 60% of individuals treated for at least 1 year (C. R. Wall, 2005; J. A. Rivera 2010).
The synergistic action of iron and B complex increases by 10% the number of red blood cells in preterm infants with anemia after 4 weeks (N. Haiden, 2006).
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