Iron is the body’s oxygen carrier, it helps to transport oxygen from the lungs to the tissues of the body. Around two-thirds of our bodies iron is found in hemoglobin, the blood protein that carries oxygen throughout our body. It also is very important in helping with our metabolism and a large component of proteins and enzymes in our bodies.
Oxygen transport and storage: Red blood cells contain a protein called hemoglobin that carries oxygen throughout the body. This protein contains four iron atoms that binds to oxygen when it passes through the blood vessels. Myoglobin is another iron-containing molecule that carries and stores oxygen in the cells, making it essential for cellular activities.
Metabolism and energy production: Many enzymes that are involved in metabolic functions require iron to perform their activities. Cell division and growth require iron through DNA synthesis and is an essential factor for protein metabolism.
Infants and Children
- Up to 6 months: 0.27 milligrams per day (mg/day)
- 7 to 12 months: 11 mg/day
- 1 to 3 years old: 7 mg/day
- 4 to 8 years old: 10 mg/day
- 9 to 13 years old: 8 mg/day
- 14 to 18 years old: 11 mg/day
- 19 years old and older: 8 mg/day
- 9 to 13 years old: 8 mg/day
- 14 to 18 years old: 15 mg/day
- 19 to 50 years old: 18 mg/day
- 51 years old and older: 8 mg/day
Women who are pregnant should consult their doctor for recommended intake values of iron per day.
When iron supplies in the body are too low iron deficiency anemia occurs, this is a reduction in the number and size of red blood cells and a loss in their color from lack of iron. Some symptoms of this anemia are weakness or fatigue, headaches, sensitivity to cold and paleness. Iron deficiencies are generally caused by a malnutrition from limited food access, or they are caused by high blood loss. Women are most at risk for developing this deficiency; they have limited iron stores, typically eat smaller amounts of food and lose iron during menstruation.
Sources in the Diet
Most flours and cereals are enriched with iron but you can also intake iron by consuming foods like clams, spinach, steak, baked potatoes, sardines, lima beans and tuna.
Recent Studies and Articles
Serum iron studies
Iron and women
Iron and your child’s health
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