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Iron is a mineral that the body needs to produce red blood cells. When the body does not get enough iron, it cannot produce the number of normal red blood cells needed to keep you in good health. Much of the iron in the body is attached to hemoglobin molecules in red blood cells, thereby delivering oxygen to all of the tissues. Myoglobin are heme-containing proteins that are involved in the transport and storage of oxygen. Hemoglobin is the primary protein found in red blood cells and represents about two thirds of the body's iron. The body recycles iron. When red blood cells die, the iron in them is returned to the bone marrow to be used again in new red blood cells.
Iron is mostly stably incorporated in the inside of metalloproteins, because in exposed or in free form it causes production of free radicals that are generally toxic to cells. Iron distribution is heavily regulated in mammals. The iron absorbed from duodenum binds to transferrin, and carried by blood it reaches different cells. There it gets by an as yet unknown mechanism incorporated into target proteins. Good sources of dietary iron include meat, fish, poultry, lentils, beans, leaf vegetables, tofu, chickpeas, black-eyed pea, strawberries and farina.
Iron from food comes in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme is found only in animal flesh like meat, poultry, and seafood. Non-heme iron is found in plant foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens. Non-heme iron is also found in animal flesh (as animals consume plant foods with non-heme iron) and fortified foods.
Iron is essential to most life forms and to normal human physiology. Iron (Fe) is a necessary mineral for the proper function of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. Iron is also needed for proper muscle and organ function.
Hemoglobin or haemoglobin (frequently abbreviated as Hb, PDB 1A3N) is the iron-containing oxygen-transport metalloprotein in the red cells of the blood in the body. In each subunit of a hemoglobin molecule, there is a heme group. A heme group consists of an iron atom held in a heterocyclic ring, known as a porphyrin. This iron atom is the site of oxygen binding. The iron atom binds equally to all four nitrogens in the center of the ring, which lie in one plane. In adult humans, the most common hemoglobin is a tetramer (contains 4 subunit proteins) called hemoglobin A, consisting of two α and two β subunits noncovalently bound. The subunits are structurally similar and about the same size.
Iron is an integral part of many proteins and enzymes that maintain good health. In the body, iron is needed to form myoglobin, a protein in muscle cells, and it is essential for certain enzymes that drive the body's chemical reactions. Myoglobin is the putative protein that causes acute renal failure in rapid breakdown of muscle (e.g. rhabdomyolysis, severe crush trauma, malignant hyperthermia, status epilepticus and neuroleptic malignant syndrome), due to its toxicity to renal tubular epithelium. A class of non-heme iron proteins is responsible for a wide range of functions within several life forms, such as enzymes methane monooxygenase (oxidizes methane to methanol), ribonucleotide reductase (reduces ribose to deoxyribose; DNA biosynthesis), hemerythrins (oxygen transport and fixation in marine invertebrates) and purple acid phosphatase (hydrolysis of phosphate esters). When the body is fighting a bacterial infection, the body sequesters iron in the transporter protein transferrin so it cannot be used by bacteria. Inorganic iron involved in redox reactions is also found in the iron-sulfur clusters of many enzymes, such as nitrogenase (involved in the synthesis of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen) and hydrogenase. Iron binds avidly to virtually all biomolecules so it will adhere nonspecifically to cell membranes, nucleic acids, proteins etc.
Female athletes, endurance athletes, and athletes on low-calorie diets are at a heightened risk for deficiency. Iron deficiency is also considered one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the US. Deficiency symptoms include fatigue, rapid heartbeat, breathlessness, lack of concentration, giddiness, disturbed sleep, sever menstrual pain and bleeding, cracked lips and eye inflammation.
RDA for iron varies considerably based on the persons age, gender, and source of dietary iron (heme-based iron has higher bioavailability). Normal daily recommended intakes in milligrams (mg) for iron are generally defined as follows.
The most common side effect from iron supplements is stomach upset including discomfort, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and heartburn. Stools commonly become dark green or black when iron preparations are taken by mouth. This is caused by unabsorbed iron and is harmless. Do not take iron supplements and antacids or calcium supplements at the same time. It is best to space doses of these 2 products 1 to 2 hours apart, to get the full benefit from each medicine or dietary supplement.
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