Iron Deficiency - The Most Common Nutrient Deficiency?

Iron is a mineral nutrient present in plants and animals. It is crucial to the human body because it aids in transporting oxygen via the blood throughout all the tissues and cells. This form of iron is called hemoglobin, which is approximately 65 to 75 percent of the iron in the body. Hemoglobin is a protein that forms part of red blood cells. Any surplus iron is stored in your body as reserve. Since iron can only be obtained from the foods we eat, it is vital to consume iron rich meat and vegetables so that the body can absorb the iron from your diet.

When you are not consuming enough sources of iron, your body starts using your reserves. When the reserves are gone too, the blood does not have enough iron and hemoglobin to transport oxygen as necessary. This is called anemia. The World Health Organization flagged anemia as one of the most widespread nutrient deficiencies in the world. Worse, low iron is the number one nutrient deficiency in the United States. Low iron is caused by any or a combination of three factors: low iron in your diet, poor absorption, excessive loss of blood.


The most common low iron symptoms are irritability, short attention span, a constant feeling of fatigue and weakness resulting to fainting or decreased performance at work or school. The body is more susceptible to infection, the tongue swells, and the person is always feeling cold. Infants and young children unfortunately show delayed cognitive development. The above-mentioned symptoms seem generic and vague, so much so that these are often dismissed as laziness or symptoms of stress. The demographics that are at risk are children, teenagers, senior citizens, pregnant women, women of child-bearing age and athletes.

Iron Deficiency - The Most Common Nutrient Deficiency?

The body is not capable of producing iron. Instead, it sources its iron needs from food. There are two types derived from food, non heme iron and heme iron. The non heme type is found in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, seeds, fruits and grains, among others. Heme iron is present in meat, poultry, fish and other animal products.

The body does not absorb the entire iron content of the food you eat. There are three main factors, which affect the amount absorbed by your body. These are: type of iron, the level of your body's reserves and any factors that increase or decrease iron absorption.

The level of your body's reserves is the main determining factor when it comes to the amount of iron you absorb. Low reserves prompt the body to absorb more. With high reserves in place, the body reduces the amount of iron it absorbs.

The type of iron and the presence of absorption inhibitors and enhancers also affect overall absorption. Heme iron is absorbed more efficiently than the non heme type. Foods containing absorption enhancers like vitamin C, increase the absorption of non heme iron, while foods containing absorption inhibitors like tea or coffee reduce absorption.

There are many different ways to treat iron deficiency anemia. The type of treatment depends on the cause of the deficiency and the severity of the anemia. Some of the prescribed treatment may be one or more of the following:

  • Strict diet plan of iron rich foods
  • Medication to treat complications
  • Iron supplementation
  • Iron injections
  • Intravenous iron therapy
  • Blood transfusion

Iron Deficiency - The Most Common Nutrient Deficiency?

Found out all you need to know about Iron Rich Foods and how to beat Low Iron Symptoms or recover from Iron Deficiency Anemia at