Iron is an essential nutrient for humans, whose best known function is to form part of hemoglobin and thus intervene in the transport of oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the tissues and cells of the body. It is also incorporated in the molecule of myoglobin, fundamental in the use of oxygen by the muscle fiber.
Iron deficiency is the most widespread nutritional deficiency in the world, with the most vulnerable groups being children, adolescents and women of childbearing age. That is why it is important to take foods with iron but also to improve its absorption.
It improves the absorption of the iron you take with the diet
The shaped iron heme , is so named because part of the structure of the heme molecules present in hemoglobin and myoglobin therefore is found in foods of animal origin. The nonheme iron is present in other components not present heme, and is generally associated with proteins responsible for storage, such as ferritin. It is found in both animal foods and foods of plant origin.
The infant during the three to six months of life does not receive enough iron from breast milk, obtaining the same from the deposit that was formed in the liver during the fetal period by maternal placental transference
After the period mentioned, it is necessary to take special care of the contribution of iron from foods other than milk.
The growth that characterizes both infant and child, together with the increase in absolute value of physical activity, requires important contributions of iron, given the greater requirements that requires an increased use of the oxygen breathed.
Female adolescence with the onset of menstruation is the reasons why women throughout the fertile period present an increased need for iron that can sometimes double the demands of men
During the gestational period, the iron needs increase in important quantity for two fundamental reasons:
- The mother presents an increase in certain tissues, such as the placenta, chest, and, above all, circulating blood volume, which requires an extra supply of iron
- The fetus, in turn, not only requires the development of its various organs and systems an additional supply of iron, but also must deposit a certain amount at the level of the liver to, as indicated above, be able to mobilize during the first Time of breastfeeding
In principle, the nursing mother usually does not need an extra amount of iron since the mother’s milk does not contain much iron and, on the other hand, she does not present menstruation, which avoids the corresponding iron loss
Nevertheless, certain women arrive at gestation without adequate deposits of iron and with an ingestion of the same in many occasions insufficient and, in addition, can suffer blood losses during the delivery of a certain magnitude. In these cases, it is recommended that they take special care of the contribution of this mineral
There are a number of factors that condition their greater or lesser absorption and, therefore, their use by the organism.
Among them, the most important is the way that iron is present because, just as it happens in the organism, not all the iron contained in the food is the same, nor is absorbed in the same way. The heme iron represents a 5 a 10% of the total iron in the diet, but its absorption is much higher than that corresponding to non-heme iron of 25%, compared to 2%, respectively.
But it is true that foods of animal origin, such as meat, are an easily assimilable source of iron, nor should they be taken in excess because it also provides other nutrients, such as proteins and fats (especially saturated) can be detrimental.
There are several factors that affect intestinal absorption of iron; some facilitate it while others make it difficult:
- Factors that facilitate absorption
- General condition of iron in the organism. Iron deficiency caused by various causes such as low ingestion, bleeding, or increased needs, increase the absorption of this mineral
- Presence of vitamin C. This vitamin allows its solubilization and, therefore, its absorption
- Increased needs, such as in periods of growth and pregnancy
- Factors that hinder absorption
- Alkaline medium
- Phytates, oxalates or tannins from coffee or tea, forming insoluble complexes
- Certain minerals such as zinc, manganese, magnesium, copper and calcium. The joint intake of foods rich in such minerals in the same food may prevent the absorption of iron
Fiber, when forming insoluble complexes.