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Iron Health Benefits

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1. Prevents Anemia

Anemia is caused by a low production of red blood cells and hemoglobin, therefore low oxygen reaches cells throughout the body. Anemia usually results in low energy levels but can also affect many parts of the body − from poor brain function to low immunity (or the inability to fight off illnesses). The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately half of the 1.62 billion cases of anemia worldwide are due to iron deficiency, while the other half are due to genetic factors. (22)

According to the Department of Human Health at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, anemia develops when:

… individuals have inadequate iron intake, impaired absorption or transport, physiologic losses associated with chronological or reproductive age, or chronic blood loss secondary to disease. In adults, IDA can result in a wide variety of adverse outcomes including diminished work or exercise capacity, impaired thermoregulation, immune dysfunction, GI disturbances, and neurocognitive impairment. (23)

2. Supports Energy Levels

Iron supports ongoing energy by helping enough oxygen to reach cells. Iron also helps with the metabolic enzyme processes that the body carries out to digest proteins and absorb nutrients from food. This is why an iron deficiency causes exhaustion, trouble being active and many other symptoms of feeling sluggish.

Iron deficiency commonly shows up in symptoms like low concentration, mood changes and trouble with muscle coordination. Iron is needed for muscle movement because it helps store the oxygen in muscles that allows them to move and strengthen.

3. Helps Maintain Cognitive Function

Iron is needed for supporting brain function because it carries oxygen to the brain; in fact, about 20 percent of all of the oxygen in the body is used by the brain. Therefore, an iron deficiency can impair memory or other mental functions. In infants and children, a deficiency can cause psychomotor and cognitive abnormalities that have the potential to lead to learning difficulties.

4. Supports Development and Growth

Iron deficiency can delay normal motor function − meaning the ability to connect thoughts with activities and movement − as well as mental functions like learning and processing new information.

5. Needed for a Healthy Pregnancy

Iron deficiency during pregnancy increases the risk for a premature birth and also for the newborn being underweight. Sadly, premature born babies are known to have more health-related problems during their first years of life and may experience delayed growth and cognitive development.

All pregnant women are advised to eat plenty of iron-rich foods and to take supplements, because as the NIH warns,

“Insufficient iron intakes during pregnancy increase a woman’s risk of iron deficiency-caused anemia. Low intakes also increase her infant’s risk of low birth weight, premature birth, low iron stores, and impaired cognitive and behavioral development.” (24)

A study done by the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, WHO found that taking iron supplements during pregnancy is associated with an 8.4 percent risk of having a low-birth weight newborn, compared to 10.2 percent risk when the mother does not supplement with iron. The average birth weight in the WHO study was 31 g. higher in infants whose mothers took daily iron supplements during pregnancy, compared to the weight of infants of mothers who did not take iron. (25)

6. Supports Immune System

Iron is needed to properly digest and absorb other nutrients from food, due to its role in metabolic enzyme processed. In addition, iron helps to bring enough oxygen to damaged areas of the body, including damaged tissues, organs and cells that are prone to infection or disease development.

7. Helps Maintain Positive Mood

Neurotransmitter functions that support a positive mood rely on adequate levels of iron within the blood. Your mood relies on a balance of hormones — including serotonin, dopamine and other vital hormones — that cannot properly be synthesized in the brain when oxygen levels are low.

This is one reason why iron deficiency results in a poor mood, bad sleep, low energy levels and a lack of motivation. If you notice changes in your mood and feelings of mild depression or anxiety, an iron deficiency could possibly be a contributor.

8. Prevents Restless Leg Syndrome

Iron deficiency is one of the causes of the restless leg syndrome, which can lead to major sleep disturbances. Iron helps to transport enough oxygen to muscles, which decrease muscle spasms and pain.

Are Supplements the Answer for Treating an Iron Deficiency?

When someone has too much iron in their blood, this can also create problems (see below). Iron overload is the accumulation of excess iron in body tissues and can cause a disorder called hemochromatosis.  This is unlikely to happen from eating foods rich in iron alone. Instead, hemochromatosis is usually caused by either genetic causes or from taking iron supplements in high amounts.

High doses of supplemental iron (45 milligrams/day or more) can also cause side effects including nausea, vomiting, cramps and constipation, but iron in moderate amounts is thought to be well tolerated and shouldn’t cause many adverse reactions.

Keep in mind that iron can interact with other nutrients including calcium. Some studies show that calcium might interfere with the absorption of iron, although this effect has not been definitively established. Still experts suggest that people taking calcium and iron supplements should do so separately, spaced throughout the day, in order for both to be most beneficial.

In people who have taken medications for Parkinson’s disease, cancer or heart disease, the medications may be malabsorbed when also taking iron supplements. As a result, these people will want to speak with their doctor before taking any iron supplements on their own.

Recipes to Naturally Help Prevent Iron Deficiency

To help increase your intake of iron naturally, try adding foods that high in iron into your diet in some of these ways:

Final Thoughts

Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the US. Typically, women require more iron in their diet than men, although the recommendations vary by age. Symptoms of iron deficiency range from anemia to cough to insomnia, and several more in between.

To prevent iron deficiency, fill your diet with foods high in iron, including beef liver, white beans, sardines and more. You may also choose to supplement if you’re unable to get enough iron; this is a common need for people on vegan/vegetarian diets.

Important iron benefits include:

  1. Prevents anemia
  2. Supports energy levels
  3. Helps maintain cognitive function
  4. Supports development and growth
  5. Needed for a healthy pregnancy
  6. Supports immune system
  7. Helps maintain positive mood
  8. Prevents restless leg syndrome

Source: https://draxe.com/iron-deficiency/