Iron in Vitaminfood: Role of iron in the body

Iron is naturally present in many foods. Some foods are also fortified with additional iron. It is also available as a dietary supplement.

It is common knowledge that iron is essential in the body and that a deficiency leads to anemia. Vitaminfood sugar-free meal replacement shakes ward off anemia and can help recover from iron deficiency. 

Iron is required in very small amounts. Most of the 4g of iron within the body is found in hemoglobin. The remaining is stored as hemosiderin and ferritin within the liver, spleen and bone marrow.

Very little is regularly lost from the body through urine and the gastrointestinal tract. In ladies of the age-bearing bracket, a lot more is lost through menstruation and blood loss during birth.

Functions of iron:

  1.     Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin and myoglobin

Hemoglobin is a protein compound found in red blood cells and is useful in binding oxygen for transportation. Without hemoglobin, it is impossible to transport oxygen from the lungs to different body tissues for use within the cells.

Life would basically be impossible in the absence of this compound. Iron is an integral part of that compound and makes it possible for oxygen transportation as oxyhemoglobin. The largest proportion of iron in our bodies is used up in the synthesis of hemoglobin. This makes iron essential in oxygen transportation to the different tissues. Without it or with a deficiency, this process is affected.

Myoglobin is the component that binds oxygen within muscle tissues.

This also makes iron a growth-limiting factor because of its regulation in oxygen transport.

  1.       Metabolism and normal cellular functioning

Iron serves as a transport medium for electrons within the cells and also serves as an enzyme cofactor for electrons within the cells. Several iron-containing enzymes called cytochromes act as electron carriers inside the cell and play a role in oxidative metabolism. Iron is also used in the formation of the heme enzymes and more involved in electron transfer and oxidation-reduction reactions. 

They form compounds that do not allow reversible loading and unloading of oxygen. Such enzymes are numerous in the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, and are useful in energy transfer.

  1.     Other functions of the iron-containing enzymes

These include:

  • Synthesis of steroid hormones
  • DNA synthesis
  • Signal transduction, control and presence in some neurotransmitters e.g serotonin and dopamine
  • Synthesis of bile acids
  • Detoxification of toxins within the liver
  • Contributes to optimum cognitive functioning and normal immune system – it regulates immune cell creation and maturation of lymphocytes. This keeps the system optimum and able to resist being compromised.

Maintaining healthy iron amounts can improve memory, concentration, reasoning and learning abilities.


Iron metabolism and absorption.

Iron is not one of the compounds that are actively secreted from the body. It is only lost in small amounts from the skin, airways, gastrointestinal tract and urinary tract.

There are 2 kinds of dietary iron- the haem (from animal sources, meat, poultry and fish; it is basically from hemoglobin and myoglobin of these creatures). The second is the non-heam iron (from all-vegan sources, cereals, legumes, fruits, vegetables).

The haem can be degraded into non-haem by cooking at high temperature for too long. The non-haem is linked to being healthier and have reduced cancer risks but is absorbed to lesser extents.

Calcium however negatively affects the absorption rate for both of these. Given the fact that most of these animal products also come loaded with calcium, the absorption may seem to be affected. Dairy products and other calcium-rich food products should therefore not be habitually consumed alongside iron-rich meals. It is necessary to have them as separate meals as they are both essential though not compatible.

 However, iron is found in the ferrous state of both the haem and non-haem sources hence the absorption is boosted if in ion-state. Some bonds however such as phytates and phenols form too stable compounds inhibiting the absorption.

 Non-haem iron absorption is improved by including ascorbic acid in the diet and consuming fermented vegetables (sauerkraut) and sauces. These both help in degrading the phytates as well.

When it comes to iron absorption, the greatest rule is to couple with ascorbic acid which could double or even triple its absorption. Avoid phytates and phenols like tea, oregano and bran products in your iron-high diet as these greatly reduce the absorption.


Iron from degraded red blood cells is also often reutilized within the body. The iron is released and

delivered to transferrin in the plasma, which brings the iron back to red blood cell precursors in the bone marrow or to other cells in different tissues. This recycling system for internal iron transportation helps in controlling the distribution of iron to various tissues according to requirements.


Recommended daily intake amounts:

Birth to 6 months 0.27 mg* 0.27 mg*

7–12 months 11 mg 11 mg

1–3 years 7 mg 7 mg

4–8 years 10 mg 10 mg

9–13 years 8 mg 8 mg

14–18 years 11 mg 15 mg 27 mg 10 mg

19–50 years 8 mg 18 mg 27 mg 9 mg

51+ years 8 mg 8 mg


Iron deficiency

iron deficiency is greatly linked to anemia. However, iron deficiency anemia is a less frequent occurrence compared to iron deficiency. Anemia becomes important when oxygen supply is compromised which doesn’t occur in all iron deficiencies.

Iron deficiency (both anemic and non-anemic) is widespread and is among the most common nutritional problems in the world. At least 10% of the population has a deficiency with negative effects.

Populations most at risk for iron deficiency are infants, children, adolescents, and women of childbearing age, especially pregnant women. Women in the age-bearing gap are widely affected in all areas of the world but mostly in the less developed countries. As much as 30% of these ladies are iron deficient arising from the monthly blood loss during menstruation. 

Another common cause is bleeding in the stomach and intestines caused by cancer, ulcers and some medications. 

Symptoms of iron deficiency include:

  • Pale skin ; pale coloring on lower eyelid
  • Dizziness
  • Unusual Tiredness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Palpitations
  • Brittle nails and hair
  • Sores around the mouth

These symptoms all seem to arise from the fact that iron is central in synthesis of hemoglobin for oxygen transport. If oxygen transport is impaired by inadequate hemoglobin then metabolism also gets affected. Oxygen is used by every cell so the functioning of the body is drastically disrupted hence the symptoms and effects


Anemia is confirmed by a blood test analysis of samples. The full blood count checks on the number of red blood cells. Treatment is by getting enough iron so iron tablet supplements will most likely be prescribed and one is advised to also consume foods high in iron to restore the balance.


 Vitaminfood and iron

Vitaminfood vegan meal replacement shakes are aimed at solving nutritional problems starting with hunger and starvation but also include healing and preventing deficiencies. Vitaminfood contains enough iron to keep you healthy, boost heme synthesis and ensure a healthy oxygen supply. Vitaminfood is the good fuel.