5 Iron Benefits And Side Effects

Iron is the fourth most abundant element on earth and the most thoroughly studied mineral nutrient.

Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, myoglobin, and various enzymes. It is an indispensable substance for a variety of physiological reactions, including carrying oxygen, energy production, DNA replication, and repair. It requires participation.

Iron also plays an important role in the development of the central nervous system, immunity, endocrine, cardiovascular, brain, and other systems. Although it is the most common, it is also one of the most frequently lacking nutrients.

Do you know Iron’s benefits and side effects?

Iron in food usually exists in two forms:

Heme iron: This type of iron is present in animal foods (mostly red meat) and has a high rate of human absorption (about 15–35%), which is several times that of non-heme iron.

Non-heme iron: This type of iron is the most common in food and exists in both animal and plant foods

What are the benefits of iron?

1. Iron deficiency anemia

Iron-deficiency anemia, as the name suggests, is a disease caused by iron deficiency. Without enough iron, the body cannot produce hemoglobin and produce abnormal red blood cells. The efficiency of carrying oxygen becomes low (common symptoms include extreme fatigue, extreme fatigue, Shortness of breath, bloodless face, cold hands and feet, brittle nails, etc.).

The prevalence of iron deficiency anemia in the global population is about 30%, especially infants and young children. Followed by non-pregnant adult women, menstrual blood loss and iron loss related to pregnancy are the biggest causes. In addition, the common cause of men and women after menopause is recessive gastrointestinal bleeding.

The treatment of iron-deficiency anemia generally starts from the diet, ingesting iron-rich foods such as red meat, beans, and green plants.

If the diet alone cannot restore iron storage and hemoglobin to normal levels, or the anemia is too severe, taking iron at this time becomes one of the treatment options.

In addition, the choice of treatment must be based on the urgency and the clinical symptoms of the patient. If hemoglobin is less than 8 g/dl and accompanied by shortness of breath, severe fatigue, or signs of myocardial ischemia, immediate blood transfusion is a must.

2. Postpartum depression

The incidence of postpartum depression is between 13% and 19% (usually after 1 month postpartum), which is the most common psychological disease faced by women after childbirth (hormonal fluctuations and sleep changes are the biggest causes).

The main symptom is a depressed mood for more than 2 weeks, accompanied by strong sadness, loss of self-worth, and no hope for life.

A double-blind controlled study (a 6-week, 70-year-old postpartum mother) found that iron supplementation not only helps increase ferritin reserves but also has a significant effect on post-depression, with an improvement of 42.8%, compared with 20% in the placebo group.

In addition, compared with the improved subjects, the ferritin of those with persistent depression was significantly lower, and the iron deficiency rate reached 27.1%, compared with 4.5% of the improved subjects.

3. Migraine in children

Migraine is a common type of headache in children. It is estimated that about 10% of children between the ages of 5 and 15 years. Generally speaking, if the incidence of migraine exceeds 3 to 4 times a month, and it seriously interferes with daily work and rest, you should consider seeking medical treatment.

A controlled study (a three-month period involving 98 children aged 5 to 15 years) found that children with iron deficiency increased the frequency, severity, and disability score of migraine.

The combination of iron and topiramate can help reduce the frequency, severity, duration, and disability assessment score of migraine in children.

4. Children’s intellectual development

Prenatal nutritional imbalances have an important impact on the development of the fetus. In the short term, it may cause insufficient weight, cause developmental delay, and increase neonatal mortality.

In the long run, it will affect the subsequent development of metabolic phenotypes and increase the incidence of various chronic diseases (such as type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, coronary heart disease).

A Cohort Study (sample 676 children aged 7 to 9 years) found that there was a significant positive relationship between prenatal nutritional supplements (iron and folic acid) and intellectual development, working memory, inhibitory control and motor function of young children (tracking areas have extremely high iron deficiency rates).

5. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a disease related to neurodevelopment, which is common in school-age children. The main symptoms are extreme hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. The prevalence rate is between 5% and 15%. Family relationships and academics have a profound impact.

Due to the complex causes of the disease, there is no complete theory to explain. However, the known pathogenic factors include maternal smoking and stress, alcohol, drug abuse, chemicals, heavy metals, artificial food coloring, low birth weight, and premature birth.

A controlled study (a 12-week study of 23 ADHD children without anemia) found that iron supplementation helped reduce the score of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (compared to placebo).

However, another Systematic Review (including 11 randomized controlled trials) research pointed out that no matter whether it is iron, zinc, magnesium, or any mineral, there is no significant evidence that can improve children’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

What are the side effects of iron supplements?

Although it is relatively safe to take iron at the normal recommended dose, some immediate side effects have been reported, mostly related to gastrointestinal discomforts, such as nausea, vomiting, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, and darkened stool.

Most of these gastrointestinal discomforts are related to ingestion on an empty stomach, so taking it with a meal can help reduce such occurrences.

For people without special medical conditions, the maximum tolerable intake of iron is about 45 mg/day. It is suitable for adolescents and adults (including pregnant women and nursing women) from 14 to 18 years old.

As for taking a large dose of iron for a short time, it may cause acute poisoning, and cause abdominal pain, black stool, pulse, low blood pressure, fever, dyspnea, and coma. (If you take a dose of more than 20-60 mg/kg in a short time, you may have symptoms of poisoning).

If iron poisoning is not immediately fatal, the symptoms will usually resolve within 24 hours. However, it may reappear within 12 to 48 hours after ingestion, resulting in multiple organ failures such as cardiovascular, liver, kidney, blood, central nervous system, and even long-term damage.

Safety considerations for iron supplementation

Do not take iron supplements arbitrarily unless blood tests show iron deficiency

People with inherited hemochromatosis or other conditions (such as liver disease) that cause iron overload may experience various iron poisoning adverse reactions at a minimum of high tolerable intake (45 mg/day), please be careful.

Taking vitamin C will increase iron absorption. If you consume more than a few grams of vitamin C and iron in a day, it will increase the risk of iron poisoning.

Iron supplementation may reduce the absorption of certain drugs, such as levodopa, levothyroxine, penicillamine, antibiotics, and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE-inhibitors). Conversely, drugs may also inhibit iron absorption. For safety, please use them separately (preferably at least 2 hours apart).

If the liver and kidney function is poor or has a special medical condition, please discuss it with the doctor before using it.

Although there is insufficient evidence, observational studies have found that excessive iron reserves in the body may be related to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Where can I buy the safest Iron supplements?

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