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J Res Med Sci. 2014 Feb;19(2):164-74.

Review on iron and its importance for human health.

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Department of Environmental Systems Science, Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystem, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland.
Department of Health Sciences and Technology, Laboratory of Human Nutrition, Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland.
Child Growth and Development Research Center, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran.


It is well-known that deficiency or over exposure to various elements has noticeable effects on human health. The effect of an element is determined by several characteristics, including absorption, metabolism, and degree of interaction with physiological processes. Iron is an essential element for almost all living organisms as it participates in a wide variety of metabolic processes, including oxygen transport, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) synthesis, and electron transport. However, as iron can form free radicals, its concentration in body tissues must be tightly regulated because in excessive amounts, it can lead to tissue damage. Disorders of iron metabolism are among the most common diseases of humans and encompass a broad spectrum of diseases with diverse clinical manifestations, ranging from anemia to iron overload, and possibly to neurodegenerative diseases. In this review, we discuss the latest progress in studies of iron metabolism and bioavailability, and our current understanding of human iron requirement and consequences and causes of iron deficiency. Finally, we discuss strategies for prevention of iron deficiency.


Anemia; human iron requirement; iron bioavailability; iron deficiency; iron metabolism


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