Iron (Fe) is a component of hemoglobin, myoglobin, and many enzymes in the body. Heme iron, contained mainly in animal products, is absorbed much better than nonheme iron (eg, in plants and grains), which accounts for > 85% of iron in the average diet. However, absorption of nonheme iron is increased when it is consumed with animal protein and vitamin C.
(See also Overview of Mineral Deficiency and Toxicity Overview of Minerals Six macrominerals are required by people in gram amounts. Four cations: Sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium Two accompanying anions: Chloride and phosphorus Daily requirements range from... read more .)
Iron may accumulate in the body because of
Iron overload Overview of Iron Overload Typical adults lose about 1 mg iron (Fe) per day in shed epidermal and gastrointestinal cells; menstruating females lose on average an additional 0.5 to 1 mg/day from menses. This iron loss... read more can also result from an inherited iron overload disease (hemochromatosis Hereditary Hemochromatosis Hereditary hemochromatosis is a genetic disorder characterized by excessive iron (Fe) accumulation that results in tissue damage. Manifestations can include systemic symptoms, liver disorders... read more ), a potentially fatal but easily treatable genetic disorder in which too much iron is absorbed. Hemochromatosis affects > 1 million Americans.
An overdose of iron Iron Poisoning Iron poisoning is a leading cause of poisoning deaths in children. Symptoms begin with acute gastroenteritis, followed by a quiescent period, then shock and liver failure. Diagnosis is by measuring... read more is toxic, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and damage to the intestine and other organs.
Diagnosis of iron toxicity is similar to that for iron deficiency.
Treatment of iron toxicity often involves deferoxamine, which binds with iron and is excreted in urine.