Healthy Living

How Much Iron Do We Really Need To Consume Per Day?

Insufficient iron manifests itself through its commonly known symptoms. A person with iron deficiency often feels fatigued, weak, looks pale, anxious, bruises easily, hands or feet turn cold and have brittle nails in some cases. Iron deficiency could also be accompanied by unusual cravings, such as the craving to consume soil, or a condition known as pica. On the contrary, a sign of getting too much iron is joint pain, falling sick easily and change in skin tone. Blood transfusions could also lead to too much iron content accumulating. 

Iron is an important nutrient since it binds to the hemoglobin protein and helps transport red blood cells from the lungs to various parts of the body. Iron is of two varieties —

heme iron found in animal protein and non-heme iron sourced through leafy greens and nuts. Of the two, heme iron can be easily absorbed by the body comparatively. 

The metabolism of iron is different because the body reuses and recycles the nutrient without removing it, which is why an excess of iron could be a concern. Frequent blood transfusions for people receiving medical treatment could lead to an overload of iron. This happens because the body cannot remove the iron in time for the next blood transfusion, which ends up accumulating in excess.

Iron can be toxic to your heart and liver only through blood transfusions and hemochromatosis, a condition in which the iron is absorbed into the digestive tract. Through food sources, it is not possible to have iron overload, provided you are aware of the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) that can go up to about 40 to 45 mg of iron per day. 

Iron deficiency anemia is a common nutrient deficiency that is experienced around the world by infants, pregnant women and teenage girls. Babies without iron do not gain weight, get sick often, turn pale and look tired. It could lead to having a short attention span and decreasing academic performance in children. When the body does not have enough iron, it inhibits the process of forming new red blood cells. 

So how much iron is necessary to consume daily according to age and gender? A recent story on Healthline revealed the following figures:

  • Infants up to six months - 0.27 mg
  • Seven to 12 months old infants - 11 mg
  • Toddlers aged 1 to 3 - 7 mg
  • Girls and boys aged 4 to 8 - 10 mg
  • Girls and boys aged 9 to 13 - 8 mg
  • Adult men - 18 mg
  • Adult women - 18 mg
  • Pregnant women - 27 mg

Iron Due to low levels of iron, a person may become more prone to infections and also experience physical symptoms such as hair loss and paleness of skin. Nathaniel Chang/Unsplash