Iron is found in a number of proteins in the body, such as haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is important for transporting oxygen to all the cells in the body. Almost two thirds of the body's iron is found in the haemoglobin, and this haemoglobin is found in the red blood cells. About a quarter of the body's iron is found in stores as ferritin or haemosiderin. The remaining iron is found in muscle tissue and in a variety of enzymes.
The body is able to conserve its iron content by increasing absorption if needed. Adult men need to absorb about 1 mg/day and adult menstruating women about 1.5 mg/day. Towards the end of pregnancy, absorption needs to increase to 4-5 mg/day to allow the baby to absord enough iron from the mother without effecting the mothers iron stores. Requirements are higher during periods of rapid growth in early childhood and adolescence.
Inadequate iron intake can lead to different forms of deficiency such as low iron stores, early iron deficiency or iron-deficiency anaemia. The type of iron deficiency one has will effect the treatment and the iron requirements.
Iron is found in two forms in our food system - as haem or non-haem iron. Iron from animal food sources such as meat, fish and poultry may be either haem or non-haem. Iron from plant sources such grains and vegetables is non-haem. The haem form is absorbed better in the body. In Australia, the main contributor to iron in the diet are wholegrain cereals, meats, fish and poultry.The type of iron consumed, from animal or plant, will affect the amount needed, as not all dietary iron is equally available to the body. Iron absorption from food is complex and is effected by a persons current iron status as well as the iron content and composition of the food we eat.
Foods enhancing iron absorption
* Animal Protein - meat, fish, chicken
* Ascorbic Acid or Vitamin C - broccoli, capsicum, kiwi fruit, strawberries, citrus fruit and juice
* Lactic acid - fermented milk products
* Alcohol, except red wine.
Foods inhibiting or reducing iron absorption
* Tannins - tea and some vegetables.
* Oxalates - spinach and rhubarb.
* Phytates - bran and bran cereals.
* Calcium - milk, milk products and calcium supplements.
* Phosphate - milk and meat.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. Those identified as being most at risk in Australia include the elderly (because of limited food choices or less efficient absorption), athletes (especially female athletes), pregnant women, female blood donors, teenage girls and vegetarians.
Reccomnded Daily Intakes of Iron
Infants 0-6 months breast feed 0.2mg
Infants 0-6 months bottle feed 3.0mg
Infants 7-12 months 11mg
Children 1-8 years 9-10mg
Children 9-13 years 8mg
Adolescent Boys 14-18 years 11mg
Adolescent Girls 14-18 years 15mg
Adult Men 8mg
Adult Women 19-50 years 18mg
Adult Women 50+ years 8mg
Lactation- female 9mg
Pregnant- female 27mg
Added to site on : Monday, 20 December 2010