Iron Matters: Absorption and Metabolism

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ferrous bisglycinate

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Iron is an essential element in our daily diet. Most of the iron in our body is used for erythropoiesis, where it is a vital component of haemoglobin. Iron is also critical for growth, development, normal cellular functioning, and synthesis of hormones and connective tissue.

Iron deficiency is the most common type of nutritional deficiency in the world. Diet, some medications, exercise, pregnancy and breastfeeding, and blood loss through menstruation or illness are all factors that can affect iron levels. Iron deficiency is more common in women than men, affecting around one in four women of child-bearing age (particularly during pregnancy and while breastfeeding). Other groups at risk include vegetarians and vegans, frequent blood donors, children and adolescents, and athletes.

Signs and symptoms of iron deficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Frequent infections
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Inflammed/sore tongue
  • Brittle nails
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or starch
  • Poor appetite, especially in infants and children with iron deficiency anemia

Oral iron supplementation is the preferred method of treatment. However, many iron supplements have poor bioavailability and typically produce undesirable adverse effects such as gastrointestinal upset and nausea. 

In this infographic we review the absorption of different types of iron and its utilisation throughout the body. 

References

  1. Pereira DIA, Couto Irving SS, Lomer MCE, et al. A rapid, simple questionnaire to assess GIT symptoms after oral ferrous sulphate supplementation. BMC Gastroenterol 2014;14:103. [Full text
     
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Health Survey: Usual Nutrient Intakes, 2011-12. [Link]
     
  3. Iron deficiency anemia. Mayo Clinic 2014. [Link
     
  4. Gulec S, Anderson GJ, Collins JF. Mechanistic and regulatory aspects of intestinal iron absorption. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol 2014;307:G397-G409. [Full text
     
  5. Collins JF, Prohaska JR, Knutson MD. Metabolic crossroads of iron and copper. Nut Rev 2010;68(3):133-147. [Full text
     
  6. Hallberg L, Hulthen L. Prediction of dietary iron absorption: an algorithm for calculating absorption and bioavailability of dietary iron. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71(5):1147-1160. [Full text
     
  7. Bovell-Benjamin AC, Viteri FE, Allen LH. Iron absorption from ferrous bisglycinate and ferric triglycinate in whole maize is regulated by iron status. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71(6):1563-1569. [Full text
     
  8. Steinbicker AU, Muckenthaler MU. Out of balance systemic iron homeostasis in iron-related disorders. 2013;5(8):3034-3061. [Full text
     
  9. da Cunha MS, Siquiera EM, Trindade LS, et al. Vitamin A deficiency modulates iron metabolism via ineffective erythropoiesis. J Nutr Biochem 2014 Oct;25(10):1035-1044. [Abstract
     
  10. Lankhorst CE, Wish JB. Anemia in renal disease: diagnosis and management. Blood Rev 2010;24:39-47. [Abstract
     
  11. Iron. Dietary supplement fact sheet. National Institutes of Health 2016. [Link

DISCLAIMER: 

The information provided on FX Medicine is for educational and informational purposes only. The information provided on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional advice or care. Please seek the advice of a qualified health care professional in the event something you have read here raises questions or concerns regarding your health.

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Melissa Lee
Melissa is a designer turned nutritionist, who for the past 6 years has been combining the two modalities to create purposeful designs for various health publications and websites. Having initially studied Multimedia Systems Design, she then went on to complete a BHSc in Nutritional Medicine which led to her involvement in the integrative medicine industry and eventually to FX Medicine.