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April 2017
Dietetics
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IRON

    IRON

IRON
The main job that iron carries out is connecting oxygen to haemoglobin molecules and other oxygen transporters (myoglobin, cytochromes).

  

PHYSIOLOGICAL ACTION
Iron is involved in the synthesis of haemoglobin, myoglobin and different enzymes and it carries out important functions, for example, transporting oxygen to tissues and enzymatic systems. 65% of the iron contained in our bodies is found in haemoglobin, whilst the remaining 35% is found in myoglobin, ferritin and stored hemosiderin. Small amounts are also found in transferrin, which is a transporting protein. Iron in heme form, which is present in meat and fish heme proteins, is absorbed like a porphyrin complex, without any interaction with other dietary components, whilst iron in non-heme form is dependent on dietary components and on our nutritional state. Iron is only present in non-heme form in plant based foods.
FOOD SOURCES
Iron can be found in foods from both animal origin (meat and fish) and plant origin (pulses, endive, green radicchio and spinach). Around 1/3 of the iron we consume everyday comes from vegetables, whilst the amount we obtain from cereals, meat and fish is less, therefore the non-heme form dominates.
REQUIREMENTS
The recommended daily intake of iron is based on how much is lost, for adults, and on growth, for children and adolescents. The amount also varies for males and females because the loss of iron is different: for adult males and post-menopausal females the recommended daily intake is 10mg, whilst pre-menopausal women need 18mg/day because of iron loss during menstruation. During pregnancy it is best to consume around 30mg/day. The recommended daily intake for male adolescents is 12mg and for females 18mg. A low intake of iron during childhood can interfere with psychomotor development and therefore children aged 6 months–3 years should consume 7mg/day and 4-10 year olds 9mg/day. For children under 6 months, it is best to favour breastfeeding because there is a large amount of iron in human milk.
DEFICIENCY
Iron deficiency, and consequential exhaustion of reserves, results in iron deficiency anaemia, which is shown through symptoms like pale skin, fatigue, tachypnea and tachycardia. If the body continues to be deprived of iron, the haemoglobin levels decrease below normal levels, causing alterations of erythropoiesis, resulting in severe microcytic and hypochromic anaemia. Diseases concerning iron storage are genetic.

IRON

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