Iron was identified as a critical component of blood in the early 18th century and its value has become more apparent as time has progressed. Iron is found in the hemoglobin of red blood cells, which delivers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. Oxygen is utilized in metabolism to produce energy. Hemoglobin is also involved in the removal of carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. Additionally, myoglobin contains a small percentage of iron which is involved in producing energy for muscular work.
Iron is a part of some enzymes involved in oxidation reactions. It is also one of the most important nutrients for immune functions. Many human clinical trials and studies demonstrate the necessity for this important mineral.
Healthy adult men have about 3.6 grams total body iron. Women have a much lower amount, about 2.4 grams.
Iron is efficiently conserved by the body. Approximately 90% is recovered and reused every day. The rest is excreted, mainly through the bile. Dietary iron must be available to meet this 10% deficit, or iron deficiency will result.
Adults with normal hemoglobin values absorb an average 5% to 15% of the iron (heme and non heme) contained in food and supplements. Although absorption may be as high as 50% in those with iron deficiency anemia, this level of absorption is not common.
Most women with iron deficiency, but not anemia, probably have absorption efficiencies of 20% to 30%. Only about 2% to 10% of non heme iron in vegetables is absorbed, while 10% to 30% of iron (heme and non heme) in animal sources is absorbed.
Iron is an essential constituent of blood and muscle. When there is an inadequate intake or absorption of iron is compromised, iron deficiency can result.
Iron anemia is the world's most common nutritional deficiency disease. It is estimated that 30% of women and 10% of elderly persons are iron deficient.
Factors Contributing to Iron Deficiency:
Increased Iron Requirement
- Growth spruts of infants and adolescents
- Pregnancy where the daily iron requirement may double
Inadequate Iron Intake
- Diets low in animal proteins
- Athletes involved in endurance sports
Decreased Iron Absorption
- Following many gastrointestinal surgical procedures
- during chronic diarrhea or intestinal malabsorption
- Menstrual blood loss, coupled with diets offering low or moderately low iron levels
- Gastrointestinal bleeding, even that caused by daily aspirin use,
is the primary cause of iron deficiency
- Volunteer blood donation
While iron deficiency develops insidiously and is often free of symptoms, iron anemia is accompanied by many troubling symptoms, including:
These studies showed the following effects in anemic adults after only 60 days of iron supplementation:
Essentially, all iron compounds severely irritate the stomach, causing pain and heartburn. They also affect the lower GI tract, causing constipation. Because of these unpleasant reactions, many people discontinue the use of dietary supplements to correct iron deficiency and anemia.
Ultimate Iron-Pro is a proprietary form of ferric iron (FE+++) bound with a chemically modified protein (casein) by a process called succinylation which dramatically stabilizes the complex. This process offers a unique health benefit that distinguishes it from other iron compounds. Ultimate Iron-Pro provides gastro-protection through bypassing the gastric mucosa in the stomach. This allows it to be dissolved in the intestine (duodenum) where it is rapidly absorbed in an alkaline or neutral pH environment.
One capsule of Ultimate Iron-Pro per day (with or without a meal) is the recommended level for general use. For supplementation beyond this level, check with your health care provider for a biochemical assessment test to determine your iron status. If necessary, your doctor can recommend an increased level of supplementation.
Factors Affecting the intestinal absorption of iron, especially nonheme ironThe Foods From Which Iron Is Derived
the major cause of iron overload is hereditary hemochromatosis and, quite rarely, blood transfusions. Long term ingestion of large amounts of iron or frequent blood transfusions can lead to abnormal accumulation of iorn in the liver.
It is generally suggested that people with iron deficiency anemia (IDA) supplement with the minimum amount of iton needed to restore levels to the mid-normal range. Since excess iron in the body can generate free-radical reactions, supplemental iron should be used sparingly. The use of antioxidants, including Vitamin E, is advised.
The human body contains iron in two major pools:
(1) functional iron in hemoglobin, myoglobin and enzymes, and
(2) storage iron in ferritin, hemosiderin, and transferrin (a transport protein in blood).
Heme iron is found in hemoglobin, myoglobin and some enzymes. It is obtained from animal sources and absorbed across the brush border (mucosa) of intestinal absorbing cells (enterocytes) after it is digested.
Heme iron represents only 5 to 10% of the dietary intake of iron for individuals who consume a mixed diet. Its absorption, however, may be as high as 25%, compared with only 5% or less, for nonheme iron. The absorption of heme iron is affected only minimally by the composition of meals and gastrointestinal secretions.
Once heme iron enters the cytosol, ferrous iron is enzymatically removed from the ferroporphyrin complex. The free iron ions combine immediately with apoferritin. Ferritin serves as both an intracellular store and a ferry that carries bound iron from the brush border to the basolateral membrane of the absorbing cell. The final step of absorption occurs at the basolateral membrane of the absorbing cell, the same as for nonheme iron, by an active transport mechanism.
Nonheme iron is found predominately in plant foods and in some animal foods. Vegans must ingest and absorb sufficient amounts of non heme Iron in order to meet dietary requirements. The efficiency of nonheme iron absorption appears to be controlled by the intestinal mucosa, which allows iron to enter the blood.
Nonheme Iron must proceed through three steps before entry into blood circulation:
There are different biochemical assessment tests to determine iron status. the best indicator of iron stores is a measurement of serum ferritin levels. Other tests evaluate serum iron, hemoglobin, hematocrit levels, total iron binding capacity (TIBC) and erythrocyte protoporphyrin, mean corpuscle volume (MVC), transferrin saturation and serum iron concentration. Erythrocyte protoporphyrin is the precusor for heme iron. When blood levels are elevated, it means there are low levels of heme iron being manufactured. Recently the protoporphyrin heme (P/H) ratio has been evaluated and may be more successful in determining iron deficiencies compared to other measurements. (Madan, 1999)
Commonly, hemoglobin concentration, percent transferrin saturation and serum iron are not successful at determining iron deficiencies. There are situations where the blood tests are normal, but individuals have iron defu=iciency symptoms. Iron availability from storage forms may be completely depleted. This occurs beacuse these individuals may have higher normal hemoglobin levels.
Madan N, Prasannaraj P, russian, et. al., Monitoring oral iron therapy with protoporphyrin/heme
rations in pregnant women. Ann Hematol. 1999:78 (6) 279-283 (Abstract)
Mahan, I Kathleen, Scott-Stump, Sylvia E., "Krause's Food, Nutrition and Diet Therapy 10th Edition", W.B. Saunders Co., 2000. p. 125.
Kopecke, W, Sauerland, MD, Meta analysis of efficiency and tolerability dta on iron protein succinylate in patients with iron deficiency anemia of different severity. Arzneim Helforschung. Nov. 43(11):1211-6, 1995.