If you turn over your daily multivitamin bottle, you will likely notice that iron makes an appearance on the Supplement Facts label.
While the formulation of each multivitamin product may be a mystery, the inclusion of iron is not. Iron plays a vital role in body function. And depending on your diet, consuming an iron supplement may be one of your best sources of iron.
Here we will look at a few surprising facts about iron’s biological role in the human body.
Our Blood Is Pumping Iron
Most of the iron in the body is found in the blood and muscle cells. Iron plays a key role in hemoglobin synthesis. Hemoglobin is the protein in the blood responsible for moving oxygen throughout the body.
For our bodies to produce hemoglobin, the heme—the non-protein part of hemoglobin—must be synthesized in a complex, multi-step process. Enzymes that will become heme go through a series of chemical reactions. Eventually, the enzymes form a ring structure into which iron is injected and heme is created.
The heme will go on to bind with globin to create hemoglobin, where about 70% of all the body’s iron is stored. Approximately 25% of the iron stored in the body is stored as ferritin, a blood cell protein that circulates in the blood.
We Need Iron But Can’t Produce It
Though our bodies need iron to produce hemoglobin, it must be obtained through food or supplements. This is why it is found in most multivitamins. Physicians recommend a minimum of 1.8 mg of iron per day. This is especially important since our bodies do not absorb all the iron we ingest.
Just 10 to 30 percent of the iron we take in is absorbed and used. Calcium, polyphenols, phytic acid, and peptides from partially digested proteins all block the absorption of iron.
On the other hand, you may also notice that your multivitamin includes vitamin C. We often think of vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, as the vitamin for keeping up our immunity. But it has been shown to boost the absorption of iron.
Women Are At Greater Risk of Iron Deficiency
When we fail to get our recommended daily intake of iron, the body will begin using its stored iron. Over time, our store of iron will be exhausted and our hemoglobin production will go down. This can result in iron deficiency anemia—a condition marked by a deficiency in healthy red blood cells.
While iron deficiency anemia is common, women are naturally more likely to suffer from it. Women store less iron than men. The average adult male stores approximately 1,000 mg of iron, enough for about three years. But women average only approximately 300 mg, enough for just around six months.
Gender aside, blood loss is the greatest outside cause of iron deficiency. But here again, women are at a further disadvantage. Childbirth and menstruation cause women to lose significantly more blood than men at regular intervals. This makes women even more susceptible to becoming iron deficient.
For those of us lucky enough to live in the modern industrialized world, most cases of iron deficiency anemia are simple cases of low iron intake. It can easily be corrected through our access to a wide variety of iron-rich foods—and multivitamins produced through the use of chemistry. With the help of modern chemistry, both in the field and in the lab, we are able to keep our blood rich in iron and our bodies healthy.
Noah Chemicals provides clients with the purest chemicals. Discover a wealth of iron compounds in our massive online catalog. To speak with a qualified chemist about custom chemicals and bulk ordering contact us today!