Iron: what it is, what it is for and where it is found

What is the purpose of iron in our body?

Iron is an essential element for the proper functioning of our bodies. Although it is present in small amounts, it performs very important vital functions. Iron is responsible for transporting oxygen to all tissues through its cooperation with hemoglobin in red blood cells and myoglobin in muscles.

The main organs that store iron are the liver, spleen, and bone marrow. The latter is responsible for reusing the iron present in dead cells. In emergency situations, such as a hemorrhage, the accumulated iron is put into circulation to compensate for the body’s increased needs.

Iron not only performs an oxygen transport function, but also participates in the activity of numerous enzymes and the production of hormones and connective tissue. Iron is also important for the synthesis of neurotransmitters responsible for mental well-being.

Iron deficiency can cause anemia, fatigue, dizziness and muscle weakness. Therefore, it is important to maintain a balanced diet that provides sufficient iron. Foods such as meat, legumes, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables are important sources of this essential mineral.

Iron metabolism

The process of iron absorption in the body is complex and depends on several factors. One of the main ones is the type of iron present in foods, namely heme and nonheme.

Iron bound to the heme group, found mainly in meat, is more easily absorbed than nonheme iron, found in plant-based foods.

Although heme iron is absorbed in greater amounts, nonheme iron can also be absorbed by the body in the presence of reducing substances such as vitamin C.

In general, a person absorbs an average of 10 percent of the iron introduced through the diet. Once absorbed, the iron is incorporated into the heme group or stored as nonheme iron, which must be reduced to be used by the body. This occurs easily at acidic pH, as in the stomach, or in the presence of reducing substances.

Iron is never free within cells and body fluids, but is bound to specific transport proteins such as apoferritin and ferritin. In the blood, iron binds to transferrin and is transported to the various organs in the body.

What happens if you have iron deficiency?

Iron deficiency is one of the most prevalent diseases worldwide. Sideropenic anemia, represents a pathological condition that affects millions of individuals of all ages, sexes, and colors. This condition can bring a wide range of negative consequences to a person’s well-being.

The most common symptoms that indicate a possible iron deficiency may be paleness, fatigue, depression, headaches, brittle nails, and hair loss. People at risk of developing iron deficiency include pregnant women, nursing mothers, infants and children, the elderly, professional athletes, vegetarians, and vegans.

Treatment for iron deficiency depends on the severity of the problem. When the deficiency is mild, you can improve your diet to introduce more iron-rich foods. When iron deficiency is severe, iron supplements must be used to replenish the body’s depleted reserves.

It is important to pay attention to one’s diet to prevent iron deficiency. Eating iron-rich foods such as meat, fish, beans, nuts, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables is recommended. Adding a source of vitamin C to each meal can also increase the absorption of iron in the body.

Learn more about this topic by checking out the latest scientific research on PubMed

This article was originally written in Italian and translated English via If you notice a major error in the translation you can write to [email protected] to report it. Your contribution will be greatly appreciated

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *