When you think about iron as a mineral, you will probably think about iron ore, tools, and elements made with this mineral. But iron is also found in heme, a protein that carries oxygen in the blood. Heme is an essential part of hemoglobin and myoglobin. It is also a component of many enzymes, including catalase, peroxidase, and ferritin. Iron is present in several forms in food, including plant sources such as grains and vegetables.
In most cases, people will get their daily share of iron from foods like meat, poultry, fish, and legumes. Iron is also present in dairy products, bread, cereal, and other starchy foods. But the body absorbs only about 15 to 20 percent of the iron consumed. Depending on the source and the type of iron we’re talking about, the absorption rate can drop to 2% in some cases. Thus, it’s important to consume iron-rich foods daily and understand iron deficiency to detect this problem and obtain early treatment.
In this article, we’re taking the topic of iron deficiency to the level of patients and non-specialist audiences. After reading this piece, you will know why iron is so important and what happens if you don’t have enough of it in your diet. You will also learn about the types of iron available in food and who is at a greater risk of iron deficiency. We also have an article about iron deficiency symptoms where you can check a list of signs and symptoms to detect this problem in yourself and others. But let’s get started today with the basics about iron and iron deficiency.
Why is iron so important?
Iron is a critical component of hemoglobin in red blood cells, which carries oxygen from the lungs to all body parts. Iron is also used in a number of other biological processes, such as DNA synthesis, mitochondrial respiration, and myelin formation.
By examining these body processes, iron deficiency will be easier to understand, and the symptoms will become a bit intuitive:
1) Iron in hemoglobin
The body contains 12 to 16 grams of hemoglobin per 100 ml of blood, and each gram of hemoglobin has 3 to 4 mg of iron. This iron is bound to globin molecules that are part of hemoglobin as protein subunits. This iron-globin complex transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. If there is not enough iron for the production of hemoglobin, or if the iron is not adequately absorbed into the bloodstream, the hemoglobin will be deficient in iron, and the red blood cells will be anemic. Ferropenic anemia is one of the most common manifestations of iron deficiency, and that’s why patients with this condition usually have low energy levels and fatigue.