Iron (Fe) is a key element in the metabolism of almost all living organisms. In humans, iron is an essential component of hundreds of proteins and enzymes (1, 2).

Iron is often the metal ion incorporated into the 'heme complex'; an essential component of proteins, which mediate redox reactions, and of oxygen carrier proteins such as hemoglobin.

Health Functions

'Heme' is an iron-containing compound found in a number of important proteins such as hemoglobin and myoglobin, which are involved in the transport and storage of oxygen.

Disease Risk Reduction

Several possible mechanisms associate iron deficiency anemia with poor cognitive development in children.

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Things to know about Iron

  • Other Applications

    The most important use of iron supplements is to treat anemia caused by iron deficiency.

  • Intake Recommendations

    In 1993, the European Scientific Committee for Food set population reference intakes (PRI) for iron in milligrams (mg) per day (22).

  • Supply Situation

    Surveys for populations in eight European countries have shown average iron intakes of 15 mg/day in men, and about 12 mg/day in women (23).

  • Deficiency

    Most of the symptoms of iron deficiency are a result of the associated anemia, and may include fatigue, rapid heart rate, and rapid breathing on exertion.

  • Sources

    The amount of iron in food or supplements that is absorbed and used by the body is influenced by the iron nutritional status of the individual and whether or not the iron is in heme form (the iron atom bound in the center of a large organic ring structure).

  • Safety

    Accidental overdose due to consumption of iron-containing products is the leading cause of iron poisoning in children under 6.

  • References

    Consult the full list of scientific references.