Iron – Sources And Health Benefits
Iron is a chemical element which is symbolized as (Fe) and it is one of the most abundant element (by mass) that is found on both the outer and inner core of the earth.
It forms one of the most essential chemical element which must be supplied to the body through the diet in order to meet the body requirement as the body can not synthesize it. There are two main categories of iron that exist which include:-
- Metal iron; this form of iron is mined from beneath the surface of the earth forming about ten percent of the earth. It comes from a mixture of metals and rocks referred to as iron ore.
- Mineral iron; this is the from of Iron which is basic and very essential for a healthy life. Mineral iron exist in two forms which include: Heme Iron, this is common in animal products for example meat, fish, poultry among other animal sources; non-heme iron, this form of mineral Iron is common in plants sources such as fruits and vegetables (green leafy vegetables).
Other Names Of Iron
Iron can be referred by the following names: Ferrous succinate, Ferrous gluconate, Ferrous sulfate and Ferrous citrate among other names.
Functions/Uses Of Iron In The Body
Iron is one of the critical elements that is essential for proper functioning of the body in the following ways:-
Transportation And Storage Of Oxygen
The red blood cells which are responsible for the transportation of oxygen throughout the body contain hemoglobin, which is a complex protein. Iron form part of this complex and an all important protein and as the levels of Iron decrease, a condition referred to as anemia will occur. This means that there will be deficient supply of oxygen to all parts of the body including the vital organs such as the brain (mind), the heart and other organs. This will have a negative effect on the overall performance of an individual which may lead into blood transfusion in order to avert this problem. On the other hand, myoglobin is an important protein used in storage of Oxygen and it consists iron. Insufficient amounts of Iron will affect its ability to store oxygen.
Enzymes are protein in nature substances which play important roles in many body/cell processes. Iron forms part of these enzymes and when there is a decline in the amount of Iron in the body, the enzymes will not function optimally and this will be implicated in many processes that take place in the body for instance Krebs cycle and other metabolic processes.
Immune system is a very important system that helps the body to fight against infections and diseases. With insufficient amounts of Iron in the body, the immune system may be compromised hence will not be able to guard the body against diseases and infections but when there is sufficient amounts of Iron, the immune system will be boosted.
Other functions of Iron in the body may include: Anti-oxidizing functions, brain development and it can help in fighting some forms of cancers.
Utilization Of Iron
Mineral Iron can be utilized in different forms which include the following:-
Diet: Iron utilization can be achieved through the diet. Most foods that are consumed consist of Iron, for example fruits, animal products and vegetables. Heme Iron is readily absorbed as compared to non-heme Iron hence the need to mix the two categories for better results. In some cases vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is included in the diet as it increases the level of Iron absorption.
Iron Supplements: Iron can be made into supplements which can be utilized in order to meet the body requirements more especially for pregnant mothers and women who need more iron than men. Supplements must be used under the guidance of a health trained personnel especially in children under the age of five years and pregnant women.
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Side Effects Of Iron In The Body
Use of Iron especially too much of it may lead into the following side effects: Anorexia (where one develops lack of appetite), nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, the skin color may change to grayish, dizziness, fatigue, inhibiting the absorption of other essential elements, may affect the effectiveness of other drugs used for example those used for ulcers, weight loss and headache among other side effects.