A deficiency of iron can occur in the body for a variety of reasons, such as inadequate intake, poor absorption (for example chronic diarrhoea or malabsorption syndrome), increased iron demands (as in pregnancy) and abnormal loss of blood from the body (for example hookworm, gastric ulcers and frequent or excessive menstruation). Anemia is the most common form of iron deficiency.
Iron is one of the most important trace elements required by the body and is widely distributed throughout it. The total iron content of a person varies with age, sex, nutrition, and state of health. Normal adult males are estimated to contain 4.5gm of iron. It is an essential element for the formation of hemoglobin of red blood cells; about 60-70% of iron is contained in hemoglobin. Muscle tissues contain about 3% of iron as myoglobin. The body stores iron in the liver, spleen, kidneys and bone marrow as ferritin, hemosiderin and siderophilin.
Both iron and copper are involved in oxidation-reduction reactions, which in turn are responsible for energy production in the body. Iron-containing protein is responsible for transport of oxygen from our lungs to different organs. With out oxygen, none of the tissues can survive.
Most people get enough iron in their diet, but chronic bleeding from any cause, such as menstruation, results in iron loss which may exceed intake, resulting in an additional requirement. A shortage of iron is most commonly evidenced by iron-deficiency anemia. However, body stores of iron must be significantly depleted before anemia begins to develop.
Low iron stores are the most common cause of anemia, but this condition is the last stage of iron deficiency. Earlier signs of iron deficiency include spoon-shaped nails, fatigue, and poor immune function.
Vitamin B12, folate, zinc and iron have been shown to be effective in up to 60% of patients with canker sores when such a vitamin or mineral deficiency has been documented. [Dermatologic Clinics 1996:14, pp.243-256, British Dental Journal 1985:159, pp.361-367]
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