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Nutrition Resources

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Iron


Nutrient description/background:
  • One of the most abundant metals on Earth;
  • Essential to most life forms and to normal human functioning;
  • Mineral found in every cell of the body;
  • Majority is found in hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to tissues;
  • Iron deficiency is the most common single nutrient disorder in the world.

Nutrient function:
  • An essential component of proteins involved in oxygen transport;
  • Essential for the regulation of cell growth and differentiation;
  • Involved in many central nervous system processes that could affect an infant's behavior and development.

DRI/RDA:
  • Children 1-3 and 4-8 years old: 7 milligrams per day (mg/day) and 10 mg/day, respectively;
  • Males and females age 9-13 and males age 19 and older: 8 mg/day
  • Males and females age 14-18: 11mg/day and 15 mg/day, respectively
  • Females age 14-18 and 19-50: 15 mg/day and 18 mg/day, respectively
  • Women who are pregnant or producing breast milk may need different amounts

Food Sources:
  • Best sources include: dried beans and fruits, eggs, iron-fortified cereals, liver, lean red meat, oyster, salmon, tuna, and whole grains
  • Iron from vegetables, fruits, grains, and supplements is harder for the body to absorb
  • Foods rich in vitamin C increase absorption

Indications/Health claims:
  • High iron stores may increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.
  • Differences in socio-emotional behavior between infants with iron deficiency anemia and those without anemia.

Evidence for or against claims:
  • The hypothesis that high iron stores increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease is not entirely clear.
  • In almost every case study, infants with iron deficiency anemia demonstrated a more wary, hesitant, solemn, and unhappy behavior and tended to stay close to their mothers.