Iron and its health benefits
What is iron?
Iron is an essential mineral. It is necessary for our body for proper hemoglobin functioning and other life processes.
Hemoglobin is the protein in the RBCs (red blood cells) and carries oxygen from the lungs to other body parts.
Iron is naturally present in various plant and animal foods. Iron scarcity in our bodies can lead to severe illness
Facts about iron
- Iron is essential for a healthy pregnancy.
- The recommended dietary intake of iron is different for different age groups.
- Iron is available as iron supplements or as multivitamin-mineral
- Accidental overdose of iron consumption in children causes severe poisoning, which is fatal
Sources of iron
- White beans
- Cashew nuts
- Tofu (soymilk)
- Fortified Cereal oats
- Canned clams
- Beef liver
- Dark chocolates
- Organ meat
Some food that increases iron absorption
- Vitamin c containing food such as lemon, orange, and tomato increases iron absorption from plant sources.
- Animal food, viz; fish, poultry, and meat, increase iron absorption from plant sources.
Certain foods that decrease iron absorption
- Green or black Tea
Dosage of iron
The recommended daily intake of iron for different age groups is as follows
- 0 to six months-0.27 mg (milligrams)
- Seven months to 1 year- 11 mg
- 1 to 3 years- 7 mg
- 4 to 8 years- 10 mg
- 9 to 13 years- 8mg
- 14 -18 years (boys) – 11mg
- 14-18 years (girls) -15 mg
- 19 to 50 years (male) -8 mg
- 19 to 50 years (female) – 18 mg
- 51 years and above- 8 mg
- 14 -18 years- 27 mg
- 19-50 years- 27 mg
- 14-18 years- 10 mg
- 19-50 years- 9 mg
Benefits of iron
Supplies oxygen with hemoglobin and myoglobin
- Iron is harmful to the body in its free form. Around 70 % of iron in the body is present in myoglobin and hemoglobin.
- Iron atoms within the hemoglobin molecule combine with oxygen in the lungs forming oxyhemoglobin that is later released to the target cells.
- Iron binds to myoglobin (an oxygen storage protein) and supplies oxygen to the muscles.
Iron helps the iron-dependent enzymes
- Iron plays an essential role in the oxidative phosphorylation process. Oxidative phosphorylation is a process that converts food into energy.
- The cytochrome enzymes (protein) involved in the process bind heme iron (found in blood and muscles) which is necessary for their proper functioning
- Iron intake during pregnancy prevents premature birth.
- It the risk of low birth weight
- It the risk of infection during pregnancy
- Iron supplements increases the iron level in our body
- It prevents one from iron deficiency anemia ( a disease in which blood lacks healthy red blood cells)
- A sufficient iron in diet reduces tiredness during the menstruation period
- Reduces fatigue in individuals with decreased ferritin level
- Iron Improves concentration and the mental ability
Restless leg syndrome
- Restless leg syndrome is a condition of uncontrollable urge for leg movement.
- Iron supplementation improves the restlessness associated with restless leg syndrome
- It improves exercise performance
- It enhances the body’s immunity
Side effects of iron
- Skin rash
- Swelling in the lips, tongue, and face
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Constipation ( difficulty in passing stools)
- Dark stool
Overdose toxicity of iron
- Abdominal pain
- Liver cirrhosis
- Liver cancer
- Heart problem
- Internal bleeding
In severe iron overdose cases
- Organ damage
- Coma (prolonged state of unconsciousness)
Deficiency of iron
Deficiency symptoms of iron
- Extreme tiredness
- Pale skin
- Cold hands and feet
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Poor memory
- Fast heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Brittle nails
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Tongue sores
- Difficulty in swallowing ( in severe cases)
Deficiency reasons for iron
- Consuming too little iron in the diet
- Blood loss due to injury
- Prolonged exercise
- Menstruation ( normal monthly shedding of the uterus lining along with blood and mucus)
- Pregnancy (due to increased demand by the fetus)
- Stomach surgeries (due to a decrease in stomach acid secretion needed for iron absorption)
- Weight loss surgery (leads to decreased capacity of iron absorption)
- Crohn’s disease (a disease that causes swelling and irritation of the gastrointestinal tract)
Risk people prone to develop iron deficiency
- Infants born before 37 weeks of pregnancy
- Pregnant woman
- Menstruating woman
- Frequent blood donors
- People with Gastric bypass surgery
- People on a vegetarian diet
- People on dialysis treatment(procedure to remove extra fluids and waste substances from the body)
- People with Colitis (pain and swelling of the large intestine)
- People with Cancer (abnormal cell growth in the body)
- People with Heart problems
Interactions of iron
Iron is an active element known for its interactions with medicines and other supplements; hence, one should be careful while consuming it.
Interactions with medicines
Taking iron and tetracycline together
- It decreases the absorption capacity of the stomach to absorb tetracycline
- To prevent such interaction, one must consume iron before two hours or after four hours of tetracycline consumption
Taking iron and quinolone together
- It decreases the efficiency of the drug
- To prevent such interaction, one must consume iron 2 hours after or 2 hours before consuming quinolone antibiotic.
- Iron helps in the formation of new blood cells while Chloramphenicol reduces the new blood cell production
- Taking chloramphenicol for an extended period decreases the iron effects of forming new blood cells
When iron and levodopa are taken together
- It reduces the body’s ability to absorb levodopa
- When iron and levothyroxine are taken together reduces the effect of levothyroxine
- Iron decreases the stomach’s absorption ability for biphosphonates so biphosphonate must be consumed 2 hours before iron consumption
- Iron decreases the efficiency of the drug penicillamine therefore penicillamine must be consumed 2 hours prior or 2 hours after penicillamine consumption.
- Iron decreases the effect of the drug methyldopa and the body’s absorption capacity.
- To prevent such interaction, consume iron 2 hours before or after taking methyldopa.
- Dolutegravir is medicine for HIV infection
- Iron and dolutegravir, when taken together, reduce the body’s ability to absorb dolutegravir
- So dolutegravir must be consumed 2 hours before iron consumption or 6 hours later iron consumption.
Taking iron and mycophenolate together
- It reduces the efficiency of the drug
- It decreases the body’s absorption capacity to take up the drug so one must consume iron 4 hours before drug consumption or 2 hours later drug consumption
Taking iron along with HIV/AIDS medication
- It reduces the effect of the drug by reducing the blood levels of drug
Iron and antacids, when taken together
- It reduces the stomach acidity needed for iron absorption
Iron interaction with other health supplements
Taking calcium and iron together
- Calcium decreases the body’s iron-absorbing capacity
- To avoid such interactions, iron, and calcium supplements must be consumed at different times of the day
Supplement containing magnesium, manganese, copper, and zinc
- Iron supplements decrease the absorption of magnesium, manganese, copper, and zinc in the body
- Iron is one of the vital minerals to keep our body fit
- Iron supplements help to treat iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia
- Excess iron consumption can lead to severe consequences
- One should always consume iron under medical supervision to prevent iron overdose and to get the optimal dose with minimal side effects