Iron

Iron is an essential mineral that is required for human life. Iron is found in the body's red blood cells, which carry oxygen-rich blood to every cell in the body. Iron is also involved in producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body's energy source. Extra iron is stored in the liver, bone marrow, spleen, and muscles.

Not having enough iron can lead to anemia. The most common symptoms of anemia are weakness and fatigue. One reason people who are iron deficient get tired easily is because their cells do not get enough oxygen. Pregnant women, young women during their reproductive years, and children tend to be at highest risk of iron deficiency. Iron deficiency anemia in children is associated with poor neurodevelopment. Anemia may be mild, moderate, or severe. It can be caused by blood loss, such as that from a bleeding ulcer, menstruation, severe trauma, surgery, or a malignant tumor. It can also be caused by an iron-poor diet, not absorbing enough dietary iron, pregnancy, and the rapid growth that takes place during infancy, early childhood, and adolescence.

On the other hand, too much iron in the body can lead to a condition known as hemochromatosis, which can cause diabetes, liver damage, and discoloration of the skin. Unlike other nutrients, excess iron cannot be excreted by the human body. For that reason, you should not take iron supplements without asking your doctor if you need extra iron.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), iron deficiency is the number one nutritional disorder in the world. Up to 80% of the world's population may be iron deficient, and 30% may have iron deficiency anemia.

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Nutrition

Review Date: 6/23/2015  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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