The human body needs a variety of key nutrients - one of which is iron - to function optimally. Iron is one of the 20 minerals found in food.
However, the body does not produce this mineral; it is only able to store the iron derived from food sources and supplements.
Your body needs iron to make red blood cells to carry oxygen around your body and for proteins in your muscles. They give you the energy you need for your daily activities. Iron is also needed for many other roles including your immune system to help fight infections, and is vital for normal child growth and intellectual development. If you do not have enough, you may lack energy and get sick often. Iron is needed for optimum brain function in adults and children.
SPECTRUM OF IRON DEFICIENCY
WHAT IS IRON DEFICIENCY?
Iron deficiency is more common than you think. Total cases of anemia were 1.74 (1.72–1.76) billion in 2019.*
Iron is found in the body in two forms as functional iron and as storage iron. When people have depleted their stores of iron, they are said to be 'iron deficient'. When you have iron deficiency, you may develop symptoms such as fatigue or impaired concentration, or find you can't exercise to your full capacity.
When the depletion progresses, the hemoglobin concentration in red blood cells falls below the normal range (the 95 percentile for age). At this point, a person is classified as having anemia, Iron deficiency can exist with or without anemia.7
WHO'S AT RISK?
Iron deficiency can affect anyone, but women, children and elderly are most at risk. Women of reproductive age - menstruation and pregnancy are some of the key factors - are among the most vulnerable groups. Young children and adolescents can also be more vulnerable to it. So can adults with long-term illnesses like diabetes, and kidney and liver diseases.8
* Gardner W, Kassebaum N. Global, Regional, and National Prevalence of Anemia and Its Causes in 204 Countries and Territories, 1990–2019. Curr Dev Nutr. 2020;4(Suppl 2):830. Published 2020 May 29. doi:10.1093/cdn/nzaa053_035
7 Bersamin, A. et.al. Iron and Iron Deficiency Anemia Nutrition and Health Info Sheet. ANR University of California Publication 8141. ISBN-13:978-1-60107-498-0
8 Iron Disorders Institute: Iron Deficiency Anemia. http://www.irondisorders.org/iron-deficiency-anemia