Iron – Essential To Red Blood Cell Production

Iron is not only a chemical element with symbol Fe and atomic number 26; it is considered a trace mineral. Although it is the most abundant mineral in the earth, it is also the mineral with the greatest deficiency earth wide, resulting in wide spread anemia. The mineral has both heme and non-heme sources.

Iron Symbol

The mineral is needed for the manufacture of red blood cells, is required for oxygen transport, and plays a role in energy production for the body, is an essential component of hundreds of enzymes, and it plays a role in brain development and in the immune system.

The majority of iron is found in the hemoglobin with the rest found in myoglobin (the oxygen transporting protein of muscle that functions like hemoglobin does in blood) and enzymes. The body balances absorption, transport, storage, and losses of the mineral.

Dietary Recommendations

The recommended dietary allowance for adult men and postmenopausal women is 8 milligrams/day and for women of child bearing age is 18 milligrams/day, and for pregnant women the recommended RDA is 27 milligrams/day.

These recommendations are based on the replacement of daily losses due to bleeding, gastrointestinal losses, sloughing of the skin, and sweating.

Sources of the Mineral

Excellent sources of the mineral are beef, clams, oysters, and liver. Poultry, fish, lamb, pork, legumes, and tofu are also good sources. Whole grains and enriched grain products and fortified cereals make a significant contribution because they are a large proportion of the diet although they don’t contain as much of the mineral as liver.

The diet should be rich in fruits, vegetables, with a small amount of lean meats to provide an adequate of the mineral.

Iron Rich Foods Iron Rich Vegetables

Mineral Deficiency

Deficiency of iron is the most common deficiency worldwide, with the deficiency being the most prevalent in children aged 6-24 months who are in a period of rapid brain growth, and development of cognitive and motor skills.

Mineral Toxicity

A hereditary disease called hemochromatosis is a chronic overload of the mineral. The buildup of the mineral occurs over a period of years leading to diabetes, heart disease, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and arthritis.

The serious complications are more prevalent in men than women since women typically lose blood and thus iron due to menstruation and pregnancy.

Especially of note is the easy iron poisoning by children due to the use of non-prescription multivitamin/mineral supplements which can provide an accidental overdose for a child, and another source of poisoning with this mineral are the high potency prescription supplements given to pregnant women. Care must be given for both of these groups so that too much of the mineral is not consumed.

Symptoms of toxicity include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and mental confusion with death occurring within hours of ingestion, and for a child immediate medical care should be sought.

For more information about dietary iron click on the link to

For other information on nutrition some great references are:

• Nutrition – Fourth Edition by Paul Insel, Don Ross, Kimberley McMahon, and Melissa Bernstein

• The Vitamin Alphabet – Your guide to vitamins, minerals and food supplements by Dr. Christiana Scott-Moncrieff MB, CHB, MFHOM

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