Medical Definition of Iron

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Iron: An essential mineral. Iron is necessary for the transport of oxygen (via hemoglobin in red blood cells) and for oxidation by cells (via cytochrome). Deficiency of iron is a common cause of anemia. Food sources of iron include meat, poultry, eggs, vegetables and cereals (especially those fortified with iron). According to the National Academy of Sciences, the Recommended Dietary Allowances of iron for women ages 19 to 50 is 18 milligrams per day and for men ages 19+, 8 milligrams per day. Iron overload can damage the heart, liver, gonads and other organs. Iron overload is a particular risk in people who may have certain genetic conditions (hemochromatosis) sometimes without knowing it and also in people receiving recurrent blood transfusions. Iron supplements meant for adults (such as pregnant women) are a major cause of poisoning in children.

Reviewed on 12/12/2018

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