Iron is an important mineral that plays a vital role in physiological mechanisms within bodies. Its presence and proper functioning are vital for maintaining overall health and well-being.


Iron is an important mineral that plays a vital role in physiological mechanisms within bodies. Its presence and proper functioning are vital for maintaining overall health and well-being.

Iron occurs in two forms in foods:

  1. Heme Iron:It is found only in foods, derived from the animal’s meat e. poultry, meats and fish.
  2. Non-Heme Iron:It’s found in both plant-derived and animal-derived foods.
iron food

Iron Mechanism in Body

Oxygen Transport: 

Iron is an important component of hemoglobin (the protein present in red blood cells) which is responsible for binding and transporting oxygen from the lungs to tissues all over the body. The capacity of iron to bind and transport oxygen is critical for effective oxygen transport to cells and tissues.

Electron Transport Chain:

Iron also plays a role in the electron transport chain, which is a vital component in cellular respiration. Iron-containing enzymes, such as cytochromes, play a critical part in the transfer of electrons during the formation of ATP (the major source of energy for cells). This mechanism is critical for the production of energy and entirety cellular function.

Enzyme Cofactor: 

Iron acts as a cofactor for numerous enzymes involved in various metabolic pathways. Iron-containing enzymes, such as catalase and peroxidase, participate in antioxidant defense mechanisms by neutralizing harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS). Additionally, iron is involved in the synthesis of DNA, collagen, neurotransmitters, and various other essential molecules in the body.

Iron Storage and Recycling: 

The body consists of an effective iron storage and recycling system. Iron is stored in the liver hepatocytes and in the spleen, where it is coupled to a protein called ferritin. When iron is required, ferritin releases it and a protein called transferrin transports it through the circulation. Iron is subsequently transported to various tissues and organs for use. Iron recycling occurs when macrophages break down aging red blood cells, releasing iron and transporting it back to the bone marrow for the generation of new red blood cells.

Regulation of Iron Homeostasis: 

To ensure optimal function, the body maintains a careful balance of iron levels. Iron homeostasis is controlled by a complicated system that includes the hormone hepcidin, which is produced by the liver. Hepcidin regulates iron absorption in the intestines as well as iron release from storage sites, ensuring adequate iron levels in the body.

Importance of Iron in Daily Life

Here are some key points highlighting the importance of iron and its significance in various aspects of lives:

3.1. Oxygen Transport and Energy Production

Iron is a vital component of hemoglobin, a protein (found in red blood cells) responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to different parts of the body. Additionally, iron is involved in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

Oxygen Transport and Energy Production

3.2. Prevention of Iron Deficiency Anemia

Deficiency of iron is the most common nutritional disorder globally, leading to iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency anemia symptoms includes:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Compromised immune response
  • Impaired cognitive function

Acceptable amount of iron intake through the diet helps to prevent anemia.

Prevention of Iron Deficiency Anemia

3.3.Brain Development and Cognitive Function

Iron is a vital mineral for proper brain development and function, especially during early childhood and adolescence. It is involved in the synthesis and regulation of neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, which play crucial roles in mood regulation, cognition and behavior.

3.4. Immune System Function:

For the proper functioning of the immune system iron is essential. It play important role in proliferation and maturation of immune cells. Iron deficiency can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections.

3.5. DNA Synthesis and Cell Growth

Iron is required for DNA synthesis, cell division, and proper growth. It plays a vital role in the repair and replication of DNA. Iron deficiency can impair these manners and harmfully effect on growth and development.

DNA Synthesis

Iron Bioavailability

The bioavailability of iron can vary depending on the other dietary factors. For instance, heme iron derived from animal sources is typically better absorbed than non-heme iron derived from plant sources. Consuming iron-rich foods alongside vitamin C-rich foods can enhance iron absorption.

Sources of iron

Iron can be obtained from many food sources, both animal and plant-based food. Some common sources of dietary iron are given below:

5.1. Animal-Based Food Sources:

  • Red meat (beef, lamb, pork)
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey)
  • Fish and seafood (salmon, sardines, clams, oysters)
  • Organ meats (liver, kidneys)

5.2. Plant-Based Sources:

  • Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
  • Spinach and other leafy greens (kale, collard greens)
  • Fortified cereals and bread
  • Nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds)
  • Whole grains (quinoa, brown rice)


  1. Nieto Y. Protocolo terapéutico de la úlcera péptica. Medicine. 2012;11:179–182.
  2. Lafortuna CL, Agosti F, Marinone PG, Marazzi N, Sartorio A. The relationship between body composition and muscle power output in men and women with obesity. J Endocrinol Invest. 2004;27:854–861. 
  3. Yakoob J, Jafri W, Jafri N, Islam M, Abid S, Hamid S, AliShah H, Shaikh H. Prevalence of non-Helicobacter pylori duodenal ulcer in Karachi, Pakistan. World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG. 2005 Jun 21;11(23):3562.
  4. Toneto M, Oliveira F, Lopes MH. Evolução histórica da úlcera péptica: da etiologia ao tratamento. Scientia Medica. 2011;21:23–30.
  5. Reis NT. Nutrição clínica: sistema digestório. 1 ed. Rio de Janeiro: Rubio; 2003.
  6. Marotta K, Floch MH. Diet and nutrition in ulcer diases. Med. Clin North Am. 1993;77:88–17.
  7. Mattos L, Martins I. Consumo de fibras alimentares em população adulta. Rev Saúde Públic. 2000;34:50–55. 
  8. Räihä I, Kemppainen H, Kaprio J, Koskenvuo M, Sourander L. Lifestyle, Stress, and Genes in Peptic Ulcer Disease: A Nationwide Twin Cohort Study. Internal Medicine. 1998;158:698–704.
  9. Mattos L, Martins I. Consumo de fibras alimentares em população adulta. Rev Saúde Públic. 2000;34:50–55. 
  10. Stefe C, Alves M, Ribeiro R. Probióticos, prebióticos e simbióticos – Artigo de revisão. Saúde e Ambiente. 2008;3:16–33.
  11. Donatini RS, Ishikawa T, Barros SBM, Bacchi EM. Atividades antiúlcera e antioxidante do extrato de folhas de Syzygium jambos (L: ) Alston (Myrtaceae) Rev Brasileira de farmacognosia. 2009;19:89–94.
  12. Lionetti E, Miniello VL, Castellaneta SP, Magistá AM, De Canio A, Maurogiovanni G, Ierardi E, Cavallo L, Francavilla R. Lactobacillus reuteri therapy to reduce side-effects during anti-Helicobacter pylori treatment in children: a randomized placebo controlled trial. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2006;24:146–118
  13. Cesar ACG, Silva AE, Tajara EH. Fatores genéticos e ambientais envolvidos na carciogênese gástrica. Arq Gastroenterol. 2002;39:253–259.
  14. Ferri-De-Barros JE, Winter DH, César KG, Gavinier LCS, Alencar MJ, Maria CSF. Transtornos relacionados ao uso de álcool em 1901 pacientes atendidos no pronto socorro municipal de Taubaté no ano 2000: contribuição para educação sociocêntrica em neurologia. Arq. Neuro-Psiquiatr. 2000;62:307–312. 
  15. Reis NT. Nutrição clínica: sistema digestório. 1 ed. Rio de Janeiro: Rubio; 2003.
  16. Paulino E, Melo ACS, Cardoso MF, Schiavon LL, Narciso JL, Buzzoleti FC. Demência e neuropatia periférica reversíveis com reposição parenteral de vitamina B 12. Rev Soc Bra Clin Med. 2008;6:123–124.
  17. Sung JJ, Tsoi KK, Ma TK, Yung MY, Lau JY, Chiu PW. Causes of mortality in patients with peptic ulcer bleeding: a prospective cohort study of 10,428 cases. Journal Gastroenterol. 2012;105:84–89. 
  18. Mosińska P, Wasilewski A. Patient’s Guide: Diet and Lifestyle in Peptic Ulcer Disease. InIntroduction to Gastrointestinal Diseases Vol. 2 2017 (pp. 65-82). Springer, Cham.