The health benefits of iron mainly include its job of providing life-giving oxygen to organ systems through its role in red blood cell production. About two-thirds of the body’s iron is found in hemoglobin. Other health benefits of iron are the reduction of iron deficiency anemia, anemia of chronic disease, cough, anemia in pregnancy, predialysis anemia and many other varieties.
The health benefits of iron relate to the proper growth of human body and maintenance of robust health. It is an essential protein component for metabolism, and the human body needs iron to produce red blood cells. The human body is capable of preserving up to 25% of iron for future use, especially in the cases of inadequate diet intake, which is a backup plan for reducing the impact of anemia, if iron intake suddenly declines.
In the body, about 70% of iron is found in hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin is the primary transporter of oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues, while myoglobin is in muscle cells, and makes acceptance, storage, transportation, and release of oxygen possible in those cells. About 5% of iron is found as components of various proteins and as necessary elements in certain enzymatic reactions. Finally, up to 25% of the body’s iron is stored in ferritin, which is in the cells and circulating in the bloodstream. Ferritin can store up to three years’ worth of iron supplementation for men, but only about one year’s worth for women, which is why anemia is more common in females. The role and importance of iron cannot be overestimated, primarily because the deficiency is so unpleasant and dangerous; let’s take a closer look at it below.
Iron Deficiency Symptoms
Iron deficiency may often cause severe fatigue, body weakness, and other related health ailments. People lacking iron cannot perform normal functions in an optimal way. Furthermore, women and children need more iron than their male counterparts, and anemia strikes them particularly hard. Severe iron deficiency may cause progressive skin ailments that cause brittleness of nails and extra smoothness in the tongue area. The enzymatic processes that require iron and the proteins that need it as a building block or co-factor will not be able to occur, and the body metabolism can slow or even shut down. Anemia is considered the most common global nutritional deficiency.
Important Sources of Iron
Iron is found in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods, which is classified as heme or non-heme iron, respectively. Legumes, lentils, soy beans, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, cereals, bread, spinach, turnip, sprouts, broccoli and dry fruits also have good iron content. You can also get iron tablets and supplements. Anemic patients are often advised by doctors to take supplementary iron tablets or tonics. Food items containing good levels of vitamin-C may also aid in the absorption of iron by the body. For example, eating a burger with tomato slices on it could boost the absorption of non-heme iron contents from the burger bread. Citrus fruits and juices like orange juice may also help in iron absorption.
Health Benefits of Iron
Iron, when consumed in a balanced amount in the human diet, is perfect for providing a number of benefits, which are explained in greater detail below.
Hemoglobin Formation: Formation of hemoglobin is the chief function of this mineral. Not only that, since iron is a part of hemoglobin, it gives the dark shade of red to the blood and also aids in transporting oxygen to the body cells. Additional hemoglobin is vitally important because human beings tend to lose blood in various ways, through injuries, both internal and external. Most notably, women lose considerable amounts of blood every month during their menstruation years, which is one of the major reasons why women are more likely to suffer from anemia than men.
Muscle Function: Iron is a vital element for muscle health. It is present in the muscle tissues and helps to provide the supply of oxygen required for contraction of muscles. Without iron, muscles lose their tone and elasticity; muscle weakness is one of the most obvious signs of anemia.
Brain Function: Increased development of the brain is also one of the many benefits of iron. Since oxygen supply in the blood is aided by iron and the brain uses approximately 20% of the blood oxygen, iron is directly related to brain health and its functions. Proper flow of blood in the brain can stimulate cognitive activity and help to create new neural pathways to prevent cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, so proper iron intake and its subsequent brain oxygenation is essential.
Restless Leg Syndrome: Iron deficiency is one of the causes of the restless leg syndrome. Most research on this syndrome has concentrated on iron. Low levels of iron in the blood are a major cause of the condition, so proper intake of iron supplements in required levels as per doctor’s recommendations can cure this problem. This is connected to muscle spasms, which can be one of the symptoms of iron deficiency.
Regulation of Body Temperature: Iron is an important facilitator for regulating body temperature. An interesting fact is that it has the ability to regulate as per the absorption capacity of the body. Keeping the body temperature stable means that enzymatic and metabolic functions can happen in their most optimal and efficient environments and temperatures.
Oxygen Carrier: One of the most important health benefits of iron is that it acts as a carrier of oxygen and thus participates in transferring oxygen from one body cell to other. This is a vital function of iron, as oxygen is required by each and every organ system to perform routine functions.
Iron Deficiency Anemia: Iron is helpful in the treatment of a severe disorder called iron deficiency anemia, which results from a lack of iron in the human body. This is where most of these health benefits come from, as a result of preventing this terrible disease that affects millions of people around the world. It is the most common nutritional deficiency on the planet.
Chronic Diseases: Iron also helps in the treatment of chronic disorders like renal failure anemia, and other chronic diseases of the intestinal and excretory system. These are not related to blood necessarily, like most other iron functions, but remember, iron is still a key part of many necessary processes throughout the body’s systems, not just the circulatory system.
Anemia in Women: Iron may also exhibit its health benefits in curing anemia that occurs in women during pregnancy or menstruation. New red blood cells must replace those that have been lost, so consuming significant amounts of iron is necessary for those women at those points in their lives.
Neurotransmitter Synthesis: Iron actively takes part in the synthesis of a number of essential neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These chemicals play a major role in different activities involving neurons and the human brain.
Predialysis Anemia: It is suggested by health experts that iron is capable of treating another form of anemia called predialysis anemia. However, it is a good idea to consult a medical expert to get treatment for this problem, as it can be very complicated and dangerous.
Fatigue: Health benefits of iron also include the elimination of unexplained or chronic fatigue, which may occur in both men and women. Iron deficiency is a natural cause of fatigue since it is an important component of hemoglobin. So, the inclusion of iron in your diet keeps you fit, healthy, and energetic, both internally and in your external life.
Immune System: Iron also plays a key role in providing strength to the immune system of the human body. Thus, the body is made proficient enough to fight against a number of diseases and infections. Red blood cells are necessary for providing oxygen to damaged tissues, organs, and cells. Without iron, there would be no hemoglobin; without hemoglobin, there would be no oxygen. The healing process needs iron to happen!
Energy Metabolism: Iron is an important participant of energy metabolism in human body. This process is how energy is extracted from the consumed food and subsequently distributed to different body parts.
Enzyme Systems: Iron happens to be the most important constituent of various enzymatic systems and other important constituents like myoglobin, cytochromes and catalase. Without these functioning properly, a number of organ systems would slow down or shut down completely.
Insomnia: Iron is also useful in treating insomnia in the human body and also improves the sleeping habits and quality of people by regulating their circadian rhythms. Proper red blood cell count can also result in less fluctuation of blood pressure, which can often keep people awake at night.
Concentration: Iron, when consumed in sufficient amounts, can help focus concentration and energy, which will boost cognitive and mental performance. Increased flow of blood to the brain due to iron’s red blood cell activity is what results in this important benefit.