Why is iron so important? article image

Why is iron so important?

Iron is a mineral important for many functions in the body and is a nutrient that the body cannot produce itself, but you must supply it through food and/or dietary supplements. Today, lack of iron is the world's most common nutritional deficiency (after protein deficiency, which is still common in some countries), and it is therefore important that you keep track of your iron intake. The reason why iron deficiency is so common is partly because certain forms of iron are not absorbed well by the body and partly because women lose iron with each menstruation. Iron deficiency is thus more common among women than among men. In addition, iron is especially important during pregnancy, which also affects women. Men can also be low on iron, but then it is usually related to low absorption and/or an iron-poor diet.

The body needs iron for:

Red blood cell production and oxygen transport

Iron is important for the production of hemoglobin found in red blood cells. Hemoglobin is a protein whose task is to bind oxygen in the lungs and then transport it via the bloodstream to the body's various organs that need oxygen to function. Hemoglobin also has the task of picking up carbon dioxide (which is a waste product) on the way back to the lungs so that we can breathe it out. In other words, iron has an extremely important role for the function of the red blood cells and thereby how well the body's organs are oxygenated. If you have too little iron in your body, oxygen transport is impaired and this results in fatigue and that you become short of breath more easily.

Energy turnover

In order for the body's cells to be able to generate energy, a range of nutrients are needed, including iron. Iron acts as a catalyst inside the cell so that the production of energy works as it should. It is therefore a contributing factor to why iron deficiency can cause fatigue, which is also a very common symptom of low iron values.

Immune system function

Iron is an important mineral for a healthy immune system. Low levels of iron are linked to increased susceptibility to infection, reduced amounts of white blood cells and reduced antibody production.

Cognitive functions

Iron is also important for the brain's cognitive development and functions as it is involved in the brain's energy production, myelination of nerve fibers and synthesis of signaling substances such as GABA, dopamine and serotonin.

Cell division

During cell division, DNA replication also takes place, i.e. the DNA in the dividing cell is copied to the new cell. For this process to take place correctly, many different substances are needed, including iron.

Reduces fatigue and exhaustion

Iron reduces fatigue and exhaustion related to low iron levels due to its role in the blood's oxygen transport and the cells' energy production.

Do all iron supplements affect the stomach?

No, it depends on which iron source the dietary supplement contains and how high a dose you take. Some forms of iron can affect the stomach more than others. If you have a sensitive stomach, organic forms of iron, such as iron bisglycinate, may be a better option as it is gentler on the stomach.

Tips and advice

A good intake of vitamin C will help your body absorb more of the iron you get. The reason is that vitamin C converts iron from the diet into a form that is easier for the body to absorb. Food with a high iron content is, for example, liver pie, black pudding, meat, fish, eggs, but also in vegetables such as spinach, dried apricots, nuts and legumes. The form of iron found in animal foods is better absorbed by the body than iron from plant-based foods, so intake of vitamin C is especially important for increased absorption.