Iron – Benefits of Iron

What is Iron?

Iron is a mineral needed by the body in the production of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying part of blood. Without proper supplies of iron, ATP (cellular fuel) cannot be properly synthesized; thus, iron-deficient individuals are likely to be constantly fatigued.

Iron deficiency can be common, especially in vegetarians. Other typical causes of iron deficiency include pregnancy, excessive menstruation, aspirin therapy, and diseases which cause blood loss or vitamin and mineral malabsorption.

One should never take supplemental iron, however, unless there is evidence of iron deficiency on a serum ferritin test. Many individuals particularly in the United States consume too much iron in their diet. Excessive iron storage in the body can increase the risk of coronary heart disease up to 360%. Iron promotes oxidation and has been implicated in Parkinson’s diease.

Many foods reduce the body’s ability to absorb iron. Among these are caffeine, calcium-rich, and high fiber foods. In contrast, Vitamin C increases iron absorption, and Vitamin A helps the body to better used iron stored in the liver.

Natural sources for Iron:

Meat, poultry, fish, leafy green vegetables.

Iron is useful in treating:

Anemia: When anemia is due to iron deficiency, supplemental iron corrects the deficit. Care should be taken to ensure that adequate levels of folic acid and Vitamin B12 are being consumed, as iron replacement in an anemic person will use up the stores of these two vitamins.

Pregnancy and Post Partum: The need to make red blood cells for the developing fetus and the increase in volume that occurs with pregnancy require increased iron utilization. Blood loss during delivery often results in anemia, with loss of iron.

Heavy Menstruation: Significant blood loss can occur, and with it iron depletion. If indicated by appropriate lab tests, supplementation will help restore blood count to normal levels.

Recommended dosage for Iron:

The U.S. Dietary Reference Intake (formerly known as the Recommended Dietary Allowance) is as follows:

* Infants 0�6 months, 6 mg
* Children 7 months�10 years, 10 mg
* Males 11�18 years, 12 mg
* 19 years and older, 10 mg
* Females 11�50 years, 15 mg
* 51 years and older, 10 mg
* Menstruating women, 15 mg
* Pregnant women, 30 mg
* Nursing women, 15 mg

Supplemental iron should only be taken in the case of documented iron deficiency. Iron is a pro-oxidant, and iron overload can have severe consequences.

Important Iron Note:

Iron overdose is quite common. Children should not take iron supplements, and everyone should consult with a health care provider before taking iron supplements for any length of time. Patients with Parkinson’s Disease should not take iron supplements without consulting a medical professional.

Safety Issues for Iron:

* Iron should be taken separately from the following medicaions, as they may inhibit absorptions. Antibiotics in the tetracycline or quinolone (Floxin, Cipro) families, ACE inhibitors, levodopa, methyldopa, carbidopa, penicillamine, thyroid hormone, calcium, soy, zinc, copper, or manganese.

* The following medications can increase the requirement for iron: Bile acid sequestrant drugs (such as cholestyramine or colestipol), or drugs that reduce stomach acid such as H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors.

* Vitamin C can enhance the absorption of iron, so overload is a theoretical concern.