Iron needs throughout life vary depending on gender and age, as well as belonging to certain risk groups.
In ancient Greece, iron was a symbol of strength and power. Iron deficiency and the resulting anemia have been known for centuries, which is why it was used as a medicine to strengthen the body.
Iron is one of the most important elements needed by the human body.
Most lay people believe that it is necessary to prevent anemia, however, it is also necessary for the formation of various body cells, as well as some substances essential for the proper functioning of the brain, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
What to keep in mind
The need for iron during life varies depending on gender and age, as well as belonging to certain risk groups. Iron deficiency is particularly dangerous at the age of 12 to 18 months, as it can disrupt the child’s intellectual and psychomotor development.
This is expressed in very poor countries without adequate health care. Fortunately, our healthcare system is organized in such a way that most children at that age are cared for by a doctor and/or visiting nurse, which is why the chances of a drastic iron deficiency in the child’s body are very small.
The results of numerous studies have confirmed how important iron is for the proper functioning of the child’s and adult’s bodies.
Thus, for example, a series of studies were conducted that monitored the relationship between the psychophysical development of elementary school children and the administration of iron preparations.
In one study, it was proven that the hyperactivity of children who received iron supplements decreased, and after taking iron for eight weeks, teenage girls showed better verbal expression and memory compared to the control group.
In an American study, it was proven that, with iron replacement therapy, the ability to learn, remember and pay attention in adults improves, as much as five to seven times.
In certain developmental stages, the need for iron is increased. One of them is adolescence, when the need for iron is increased in both sexes, especially in adolescents who play sports, as well as in girls who have increased and irregular menstrual bleeding.
Entering the period of adolescence, a large number of young people start with more intensive sports training, which increases the need for iron.
Thus, during some sports activities, especially athletics, controlled intake of iron preparations is recommended.
One of the explanations for the increased need for iron in people who do sports is that a large number of skin cells containing iron are lost through sweating, especially in the first half hour of training.
Therefore, most professional journals recommend controlling ferritin levels in athletes and iron supplementation in case of reduced concentration.
Adolescence is also a period of experimentation with different styles, including vegetarianism.
Many studies prove that vegetarians do not get enough iron from their regular diet, which is why they should check the level of iron and iron reserves in the body more often, and take iron preparations if necessary.
The possible state of iron deficiency in that developmental phase should always be kept in mind. In case you notice more fatigue, lower concentration, and irritability, it is necessary to check the blood count and the amount of iron in the body to eliminate or confirm the condition of anemia.
The way of life itself can affect the amount of iron in the body. So it is known that stress increases the need for iron.
The reason for this is not yet known, but it is assumed that a certain role is played by improper nutrition and the related digestive disorder, i.e. insufficient resorption of B vitamins, and thus iron.
Consuming large amounts of coffee, tea and chocolate can lead to disturbances in the resorption of B vitamins, which are important for iron absorption.
In addition, smoking increases the need for vitamin C, and insufficient intake of this vitamin, among other things, weakens the resorption of iron, so in the long run, it can lead to a decrease in its reserves in the body.
Replacement therapy is ok but with caution
Iron supplements must be taken with caution because taking in too much iron and/or not using it can lead to disorders in the body.
Therefore, before every use of iron substitutes, it is necessary to contact a doctor or pharmacist, who will help in choosing the appropriate preparation, depending on whether it is only an increased need for iron or if it is caused by its deficiency and consequent anemia.
The choice of iron preparations is particularly important for athletes, because most preparations lead to digestive disorders, especially constipation (costiveness), which can reduce the athlete’s quality of life, and thus the quality of training and affect sports results.