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11134445_xlThe primary function of iron is to make haemoglobin (found in red blood cells) and myoglobin (found in muscles) – two proteins which help carry and store oxygen in our bodies. Iron is also essential for cell growth and differentiation. Iron deficiency limits oxygen delivery to cells, resulting in fatigue, poor work performance and decreased immunity. However, excess amounts of iron can result in toxicity and even death.

Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency may be caused by increased iron needs and decreased iron intake or absorption. When people lose blood, they also lose iron. People who experience increased blood loss, which may occur after blood donation or heavy menstrual periods, need additional iron to replace what they have lost. Athletes who engage in regular intensive exercise tend to have marginal or inadequate iron status due to a greater turnover of red blood cells. Pregnant women, infants and toddlers also have higher iron needs. Decreased iron intake or absorption may result when our diets are low in heme iron. For example, iron from meat, poultry and fish (i.e. heme iron) are absorbed two to three times more efficiently than iron from plants (i.e. non-heme iron), thus vegetarian diet are susceptible to iron deficiency if not carefully planned. Foods containing vitamin C can enhance non-heme iron absorption.


Sources of Iron

Meats, especially red meats, are the best-known sources of iron-rich foods. Thus, it may be surprising to realise that many plant foods are also rich in iron.



Posted by ezyhealth on Feb 14 2014. Filed under Nutrition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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