Iron

December 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Elements

Keywords: energy production, detoxification, oxygen carrier

Functions

  • Cell proliferation
  • Component of many enzymes
  • Function of T cells and leucocyte microbiocidal activity
  • Needed for detoxification enzymes in the liver
  • Oxygen carrier in red blood cells
  • Present in electron transport system which produces energy
  • Present in enzyme catalase which combats peroxide free radicals
  • Production and disposal of free radicals

Good food sources

  • Black sausage
  • Cocoa powder and dark chocolate
  • Liver
  • Molasses
  • Parsley
  • Pulses
  • Red meat
  • Shellfish
  • Some types of cheap wine
  • Some green vegetables

Deficiency signs and symptoms

  • Academic underachievement (due to impairment of mental faculties)
  • Anaemia (weakness, anorexia, depression, confusion, dizziness, fatigability, pallor, breathlessness, palpitations and sometimes cold sensitivity, constipation and gastrointestinal complaints)
  • Growth impairment
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Increased susceptibility to infection
  • Reduced bone density
  • Some forms of deafness

Severe iron deficiency can cause food malabsorption, possibly by a decrease in iron-dependent enzymes in intestinal mucosal cells

Preventing deficiency

The bioavailability of iron in vegetables (but not meats) is poor unless vitamin C-rich foods are consumed in the same meal. It can be seriously reduced by the simultaneous consumption of phytic acid (found in raw whole grains and bran), tea or coffee. A lack of stomach acid can also impair iron absorption. Blood loss, as in injury, heavy menstruation or blood donation causes heavy iron losses. Contrary to popular belief, spinach is not a good source of iron as it contains oxalate, which reduces the availability of the iron. Among green vegetables, broccoli may be a better source of iron.

According to the medical literature, approximately 500 to 600 million of the world’s population are believed to have iron deficiency anaemia (Cook JD: The liabilities of iron deficiency. Blood 1986;68(4):803-9).

Comments

Iron is the most abundant trace element in the human and animal body. Dietary iron occurs in two forms: haem iron (found in meat and animal produce) and the less easily absorbed non-haem iron found in plant foods.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Linda Lazarides is Course Director of the School of Modern Naturopathy and author of eight books on health, nutrition and naturopathy.

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