How does iron help the body?

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How does iron help the body?
(Andrzej Gdula)

Iron is a mineral used by the body in the production of red blood cells. Specifically, iron is used in the production of haemoglobin, which is the main protein in red blood cells. Haemoglobin carries oxygen throughout the body, so without iron, the tissues, muscles, and other systems do not receive adequate oxygen, and thus cannot function properly. This leads to fatigue and poor health. An iron deficiency can also cause shortness of breath, inability to perform physical tasks well, poor attention, and other learning problems. A lack of iron is a condition known as anaemia.

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What Iron Does in the Body

Iron is a mineral used by the body in the production of red blood cells. Specifically, iron is used in the production of haemoglobin, which is the main protein in red blood cells. Haemoglobin carries oxygen throughout the body, so without iron, the tissues, muscles, and other systems do not receive adequate oxygen, and thus cannot function properly. This leads to fatigue and poor health. An iron deficiency can also cause shortness of breath, inability to perform physical tasks well, poor attention, and other learning problems. A lack of iron is a condition known as anaemia.

How Iron Benefits the Body

If you have enough iron in your system, your muscles and bodily systems will function as well as your level of physical fitness allows. Iron supplements can increase energy levels and your ability to learn. Sufficient amounts of iron in the body can help eliminate fatigue and muscle weakness. Iron also benefits the immune system, thus people who consume enough iron tend to have better overall health.

Who Needs Extra Iron?

There are several groups of people who are at risk for iron deficiencies. Women who have not yet entered menopause are in danger of iron deficiency. When women lose blood during their monthly menstrual cycles, they also lose iron. If this iron is not replaced, these women will suffer from decreased energy and performance. Supplementing their diets with iron will increase the amount of energy and stamina they have. Pregnant women have increased blood volume and an increased need for oxygen in their bodies, so they also need additional iron to keep up their energy levels. Children and teenagers also need adequate amounts of iron. Because iron is essential in transporting oxygen through the body in the red blood cells, it helps children to grow correctly. Children who do not get enough iron sometimes have stunted growth and other developmental problems. They can suffer from learning disabilities because the brain is not receiving enough oxygen.

How Much Iron Do You Need?

While iron carries many benefits to the body, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. The National Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that adult women of childbearing years consume 18 mg of iron per day. Men of the same age range should only consume 8 mg of iron per day. Children between the ages of 4 and 8 should consume 10 mg of iron per day, decreasing to 8 mg when they reach 9 years of age. Teenage boys should consume 11 mg per day, and teenage girls should consume 15 mg. Taking in more than the recommended amount can lead to a condition known as iron toxicity, which can cause iron build up in the organs, leading to serious health problems. To get the most benefit from iron in your diet, be careful to consume adequate amounts without consuming too much.

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