The trace element iron is essential for the formation of hemoglobin in the red blood cells, which distribute the inhaled oxygen from the lungs through the bloodstream and transport it to the cells throughout the body.
Iron is, therefore, crucial for the energy of the mind and body. An iron deficiency often manifests itself in fatigue, pallor, hair loss or brittle nails. Women, vegetarians, and vegans in particular often have too little iron in their blood.
The organism can't produce iron itself, so a regular supply of this trace element is necessary. The body loses about 1 mg of iron a day, e.g. through the intestine, the kidneys, and the skin. Daily iron needs can vary significantly depending on lifestyle and phase.
Normally, a healthy organism contains a total of 2 to 4 g of iron. An iron store is also found in the liver and spleen, among other things.
Iron is needed in the bone marrow for blood formation. The iron absorbed by the body is contained in the red blood cells and binds the oxygen for transport to the individual body cells.
This is how oxygen reaches the muscles, where it is stored, and contributes to cell energy production as well as the production of messenger substances in the brain.
Iron is recommended for:
- Insufficient food intake, e.g. with a vegetarian or vegan diet.
- An increased iron requirement, which among other things in competitive athletes and pregnant or breastfeeding women as well as in growth phases (e.g. puberty) or for longer stays at high altitudes
- Blood loss, e.g. by donating blood twice a year, menstruation, surgery or accidents.
Which foods contain iron?
The concentration of iron in food differs. The major suppliers of divalent iron, which can be easily absorbed by the body, include foods of animal origin such as red meat, especially offal such as the liver and kidneys.
The iron concentration varies considerably in plant-based foods e.g. legumes, (whole grain) cereals, nuts, and parsley. To a large extent, plant food contains the trivalent iron, which is less easy to use by humans.
How does an iron deficiency manifest itself?
Iron deficiency is a widespread deficiency phenomenon that affects millions of people worldwide. The causes are different and can vary from region to region.
Typical symptoms of iron deficiency may include:
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- a headache
- concentration problems
- performance degradation
- Shortness of breath and palpitations
- hair loss
- brittle nails
- torn corners of the mouth
Iron intake and use:
Normally, a balanced diet should cover a person's daily iron needs. However, certain demands or living conditions can lead to an increased iron requirement, so that an iron intake by taking a dietary supplement is a sensible supplement.
As a rule, the recommended dose for iron intake is around 10 mg per day (around 15 mg if there is an increased need). If there is an iron deficit, it can take several months for the body's storage to be replenished.
An acceleration of the therapy can be achieved by taking well tolerable iron. Good tolerance of the selected product is equally important.
For whom is iron particularly important?
- Women who want to have children
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Women with heavy menstrual periods
- Children and adolescents
- Blood donors
Iron side effects and interactions
At the recommended dosage, iron is a safe nutritional supplement with no side effects. More detailed information about the application and possible interactions can be found in the information provided with the individual products.
People who take medication or have kidney disease - e.g. pregnant or breastfeeding women - should only consume iron as a dietary supplement after consulting a doctor.
What experts say about iron:
1. Spinach myth
The fact that spinach contains a lot of iron has been a persistent rumor for decades. Today we know that the oxalic acid contained in this vegetable also has an inhibitory effect on the absorption of iron for the body.
2. Promoting and inhibiting factors for iron absorption in the body
According to the University of Hohenheim, recent studies show that the consumption of black tea or coffee with meals has little effect on the recovery of iron from the food consumed and can't cause anemia.
Fruits and vegetables with a lot of vitamin C e.g. freshly squeezed orange juice can have an absorption-promoting effect on the body. Overall, only around 10 percent of the iron that is supplied with food is used by the body.