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iron supplementIron Fast Facts

Foods: Red meat, fish, poultry, eggs, whole grains, corn, green leafy vegetables

Nutritional & health benefits: production of hemoglobin in blood & myoglobin in muscle

Iron, which is known as Fe on the periodic table, is an essential trace mineral for nearly all forms of life, humans included.

The human body requires Iron for the construction of several proteins in the blood, and it is also found in many proteins in the body where it performs many different roles. Iron deficiency is a relatively common affliction, and often results in iron-deficiency anemia.

Iron-deficiency anemia is characterized by a low number of oxygen carrying cells in the blood stream. Because Iron is essential for the production of these cells, iron deficiency can limit their production, which in turn limits the amount of oxygen the blood can carry.

Pregnant women should be especially mindful of their iron levels, because increased stress put on the body during pregnancy increases the body's required iron levels. Women are also statistically more likely to be below the recommended dietary intake of iron, which puts them at an even greater risk of iron deficiency anemia.

surf and turf, iron rich foods
Iron-rich foods include red meat,
fish, and green leafy vegetables.

While there are a situations where iron supplementation can have health benefits, most scientific evidence suggests that too much of a good thing can also be harmful.

In fact, in one study researchers found that diluting the amount of iron in the blood by donating blood once a year actually lowered the risk of cardiovascular & heart disease by an astonishing 86% in men. (The researchers found that people who donate blood also lead generally healthier lifestyles so at least some of that 86% cannot be attributed to reduced iron levels.)

Something else to consider with regard to iron is that the body has no effective way of getting rid of excess iron. Additional studies have found that iron can accumulate in the brain during the aging process, where it can accelerate the mind's age-related deterioration.

Lastly, vitamin C significantly increases the body's iron absorption rate, so iron supplements and vitamin C are especially beneficial when combating iron deficiency conditions such as anemia.

For those who do suffer from deficiency, iron is found in a large variety of meats and vegetables, and the mineral is absorbed much more efficiently from meats.

More information about iron, diet & nutrition around the Web:

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: Iron in Diet - Clear, concise description of its function, symptoms of iron deficiency, anemia and those most at risk, including young children and pregnant or postpartum women, good food sources, USDA recommendations.


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