The Nuts and Bolts of Dietary Iron
Despite the many jokes about doctors and their love of golf, golf clubs arent the only irons physicians talk about. Although its in the headlines less often than protein, trans fat, or calcium, iron is more than just the metal in a golf club its also an important part of your diet, and a lack of iron can cause some serious problems.
Iron is an essential mineral that is needed for the formation of red blood cells, hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen), and myoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen in muscle). In addition to carrying oxygen, iron is involved in energy metabolism, collagen formation, immune system function, and the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Approximately two-thirds of the iron in our bodies is found in hemoglobin, with smaller amounts found in myoglobin, some catalytic molecules (enzymes), and in storage molecules such as ferritin (a protein that stores iron and releases it when the blood has too little of it).
Despite irons many roles, the total amount of iron in the body only adds up to roughly one teaspoon. About 15% of our bodys iron is stored for future needs or as a backup for when dietary intake is insufficient. Our bodies obtain iron from the food that we eat (or supplements), and on average, we lose about 1 milligram of iron each day (a very small amount) through intestinal blood loss (and some small amounts lost through sweat and urine), although premenopausal women lose more iron than others from blood lost through menstruation.
The iron we consume from foods comes in two forms, Continue reading