Sunday, October 25, 2009

History file: Amazing facts about iron

From the history files of 1976 some amazing facts about iron:
  • That men (and women) lose iron everyday. Every cell has a little bit of iron in it, so every day as you shed skin cells you are loosing iron. Also the cells that line your digestive track are lost daily along with some iron in bile and some iron in the red blood cells that leak into your digestive system. This is about 1 mg a day which is about the iron level in 30 grams of lean red meat. This is about a quarter of a medium sized steak. 
  • That iron has low uptake by the digestive system. Only half of iron found in vegetables is absorbed. This is because the iron in plants must first be removed from the plant material it is bound to. Then this iron must be modified by the digestive system into a form that can be absorbed. 
  • The reason that there is high iron uptake from animal products is because the body can absorb haem molecules directly. Heam is the bit in red blood cells that has the iron in it 
  • Most people know that vitamin C increases iron absorption. The reason for this is that the vitamin C helps the iron be attached to small bits of protein forming iron chelates. These chelates are very easy for the body to absorb. Hence vitamin C increases iron absorption. Interesting enough so does fructose the sugar that is found in fruit. 
  • Fish increased iron absorption, it is thought that this is due to high levels of the amino acid cysteine. Also eggs reduce iron absorption as the egg binds to the iron and doesn't release it. 
  • You may have heard (or experienced) that low iron results in low energy. The reason for this is that iron is found in the mitochondria. The mitochondria are the power houses of the cells, they produce the energy that the cell needs to function. If you have low iron the mitochondria are not able to produce the optimal amount of energy that your cell needs. If your cells don't have enough energy - you don't either.
I find amazing about older information is that even 30 years later some of this information is not common knowledge. It takes such a long time for research to enter into mainstream information, if it every does.

Reference: Jacobs, A., Sex differences in iron absorption. Proceedings of Nutritional Society vol 35 1976 pg 159

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