DNA synthesis, and electron transport. 1
Most of the iron in our body is found in haemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein of the red blood cells
that transports oxygen from the lungs to the tissues throughout the body) and myoglobin (is a protein in
the heart and muscle cells that accepts, stores, transports and releases oxygen). 2
Iron is difficult to excrete once it’s in the body therefore the body conserves it. To maintain the balance of
iron absorption, iron is absorbed more when the stores are empty and less is absorbed when stores are full.
However, most of the people don’t consume enough iron-rich foods which causes depletion of iron stores.
Iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world. It is the only nutrient
deficiency that is significantly prevalent in industrialised countries. 3
Who is at risk for iron-deficiency?
Depletion of iron stores and iron deficiency occur in all age groups particularly in-
- Babies given cow’s or other milk instead of breastmilk or infant formula milk
- Women in reproductive years
- Pregnant women
- Elderly people
- Vegetarians (especially vegans)
- Indigenous Australians
- Institutionalised people
What are the symptoms of iron-deficiency?
Unfortunately, signs and symptoms of iron deficiency are not physically obvious unless iron deficiency
anaemia occurs. People who suffers from iron deficiency are easily mistaken for motivational or
behavioural problems. They behave in certain ways which include lethargy, lack of interest, unmotivated
and less physically fit.
Iron in foods
Combining iron-rich foods with foods high in Vitamin C helps the body absorb the iron.
Red meats, brown legumes and dark green vegetables make the greatest contributions of iron to the diet.
Iron-fortified foods in breads and cereals can contribute significantly to iron intakes but the iron in these foods
are not absorbed as well as naturally occurring iron.
Excellent Sources of Iron
Whitney, Eleonor, Rolfes, Sharon, Crowe, Tim, Cameron-Smith, David, Walsh, Adam, 2014,
Understanding Nutrition Australia and New Zealand Edition, 2nd edition,
Cengage Learning Australia, Australia.