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J Nutr. 2001 Feb;131(2S-2):568S-579S; discussion 580S.

Iron biology in immune function, muscle metabolism and neuronal functioning.

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Nutrition Department, College of Human Development, The Pennsylvania State State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


The estimated prevalence of iron deficiency in the world suggests that there should be widespread negative consequences of this nutrient deficiency in both developed and developing countries. In considering the reality of these estimates, the Belmont Conference seeks to reconsider the accepted relationships of iron status to physiological, biochemical and neurological outcomes. This review focuses on the biological processes that we believe are the basis for alterations in the immune system, neural systems, and energy metabolism and exercise. The strength of evidence is considered in each of the domains and the large gaps in knowledge of basic biology or iron-dependent processes are identified. Iron is both an essential nutrient and a potential toxicant to cells; it requires a highly sophisticated and complex set of regulatory approaches to meet the demands of cells as well as prevent excess accumulation. It is hoped that this review of the more basic aspects of the biology of iron will set the stage for subsequent in-depth reviews of the relationship of iron to morbidity, mortality and functioning of iron-deficient individuals and populations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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