Iron helps our bodies to function effectively, however we don’t naturally produce it. We get the iron we need from our diets or supplementation.
A healthy adult body contains 4-5mg of iron and uses/loses about 1-2mg per day, so it constantly needs topping up. Iron is lost from the body by shedding of cells from skin and mucosal surfaces, sweat, urine, and hair loss.
In healthy individuals, iron losses are thought to be approximately 1 mg/day in males and slightly more in women because of the additional losses due to menstruation, pregnancy and lactation.
Studies show that only 15% of iron from food is absorbed and so the daily Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) guidance is
Men (19+) 8.7mg
Women (19-50) 14.8mg
Women (50+) 8.7mg
Excessive iron can be damaging to the gastrointestinal system. Symptoms of iron toxicity include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain.
¹Webster-Gandy J, Madden A, Holdsworth M Ed's (2006) Oxford Handbook of Nutrition and Dietetics. Oxford University Press, Oxford. *http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/micronutrients/anaemia_iron_deficiency/WHO_NHD_01.3/en/