What is Iron Deficiency

Iron (Fe) deficiency means a decrease in the red cells in the blood as a result of lack of iron. Iron deficiency anemia is a result of chronic iron (Fe) deficiency

Iron (Fe) is essential for the formation of haemoglobin which is found in red blood cells. The iron in haemoglobin combines with oxygen and transports it through the blood to all parts of the body. Due to iron (or hemoglobin) deficiency, muscles get less oxygen which reduces the body energy.

Iron deficiency results when the body loses more iron than it ingests. Anemia is a result of chronic iron deficiency. Anemia from iron deficiency is the most common form of anemia. It develops slowly when the iron reserve in the body is low. If there is a lack of one or more of iron, folic acid and vitamin B12, anemia will evolve.

Daily Iron Requirement

The RDA for iron is 10 mg/day for adult men and for post-menopausal women and 15 mg/day for pre-menopausal women. These amount of iron are considered good for health.

The requirement of iron in the following table is given in terms of Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI), the amount of iron which is enough for at least 97% of the population.

AgeRNI (mg)AgeRNI (mg)
0 to 3 months1.7Men 11 - 18 yrs11.3
4 to 6 months4.3Men 19 + yrs8.7
7 to 12 months7.8Women 11 - 49 yrs14.8
1 to 3 yrs6.9Women 50 + yrs8.7
4 to 6 yrs6.1Pregnant Women30 - 60
7 to 10 yrs8.7

Daily iron requirement | Health risk of too much iron | Iron deficiency causes | Causes of Iron deficiency in children | Iron deficiency symptoms | Iron food list | Iron in Beef, Chicken, Oyster, Clam

You can plan your daily meals to take the amount of iron recommended in the above table.

If you suffer from fatigue or weakness, get your iron levels checked. Iron supplements can help restore energy lost to anemia.

Health Risk of Too Much Iron

It should be noted that because very little iron is excreted from the body, it can accumulate in body tissues and organs when too much iron is taken as supplements.

The upper limit for iron as recommended by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine is approximately 45 mg per day for adults. In adults high intake of iron supplements (especially on an empty stomach) can cause constipation, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. Keep in mind that iron supplements may be fatal for adults when taken in doses of 200-250 mg/kg of body weight.

Keep iron supplements away from children - overdose can be fatal in children and infants. Consuming 1 to 3 g of iron can be fatal to children under 6. Call your Doctor immediately if any excessive iron intake is suspected.

Causes of Iron Deficiency Anemia

Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies.

  1. Iron deficiency occurs when the blood hemoglobin level falls below normal and blood and storage levels of iron are low.
  2. Too little iron in the diet. A vegetarian diet contains adequate quantity of Fe, iron.
  3. Poor absorption of iron by the body
  4. Excessive loss of blood.
  5. Individuals with renal failure, especially those receiving dialysis, are at high risk for developing iron deficiency. This is because their kidneys cannot create enough erythropoietin, a hormone needed to make red blood cells. Iron and erythropoietin can also be lost with blood during dialysis.
  6. A deficiency of vitamin A limits the body's ability to use stored iron, resulting in low hemoglobin levels.

Causes of iron deficiency in children

  1. Prematurity and low birth weight
  2. Exclusive breastfeeding beyond six months
  3. High intake of cows milk. Introduction of cows milk as the main drink before 12 months
  4. Only vegetarian diet and poor diet.
  5. Lead poisoning.

Who Are At Risk

  1. Infants, babies, toddlers, children - preschoolers and teenage girls are at risk of developing iron deficiency because they have the greatest needs and also due to inadequate diets.
  2. People following a vegetarian or vegan diet are at risk. They should ensure to get enough iron in their diet.
  3. Iron deficiency during pregnancy is associated with increased risk of premature deliveries, giving birth to infants with low birth weight.

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