We Know: All About Iron And Your Body

What role does Iron play in the body?

Iron makes it possible for our blood to carry the oxygen we need to live.

How is that possible?

Iron helps substances in the blood-carrying protein known as hemoglobin chemically bind with oxygen. A good example of iron and oxygen bonding is rust.

Rust is destructive. So, how can iron and oxygen be a good combo when it comes to the body?

It's because of a protein that evolved in animals, called ferritin, which permits the two elements to work together constructively.

What is Iron?

Iron is a basic chemical element that is classified as a metal. It is the most abundant metal on Earth and is considered the tenth most abundant metal in the universe. When it is in ore form in the earth, it's reddish in color. Rust is reddish too. What else is red? Our blood. Iron is the reason why.

Where do we get our Iron from?

We get iron from the food we eat. Red meat has the greatest amount of iron. But you can also get it from fish, poultry, leafy vegetables, lentils, beans, fruits, and foods such as breakfast cereals that have been iron fortified. Iron from red meat is considered to be the best source because it allows the body to absorb the iron in it more thoroughly.

How much Iron do we need?

It depends on whether you're a man or a woman, and also your age. That's because women of childbearing age lose blood through their monthly menstrual cycles and, therefore, need more iron to make more blood. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for an average adult female is 18 milligrams of iron a day; for men of the same age, it is only 8 milligrams. But by the time men and women reach 50, the RDA for both is the same, at 8 milligrams.

What happens if you don't have enough Iron in your body?

Because of its role in helping the blood carry life-giving oxygen to every part of your body at every moment, iron deficiency can be very serious. Fatigue is a common symptom, which may be related to anemia, a disease caused by too few red blood cells. Other symptoms include reduced immune function, short attention span, and general weakness. Keep in mind, though, that these symptoms can be related to several nutritional deficiencies and diseases, not just iron deficiency.

Can you have too much Iron in your body?

Yes. Too much iron can create serious problems, including liver and heart damage. Iron is not normally eliminated from the body quickly. Taking iron supplements for no good reason or drinking water with a high iron content on a frequent basis can create iron toxicity in the body, especially if you have a hereditary disease known as hemochromatosis that causes you to absorb too much iron. Because most multivitamins on the market have iron in them, there is also concern these may be putting some people at risk.

Is there a relation between Iron and heart disease?

There are many ongoing studies that indicate a significant causal relationship between excess iron in the body and heart disease. Part of the problem has to do with the balance iron and oxygen must maintain to work together beneficially. If that balance is disrupted because you take in too much iron, the formation of so-called free radicals may take place which can damage arterial walls and raise the level of, LDL, the so-called "bad" cholesterol, in your blood.

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