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Iron Metabolism

Learn the essential role iron plays in human health and how to ensure your body is getting the right amount.

Review of Iron Metabolism

Iron metabolism is an important process in human physiology, as it plays a critical role in a variety of biochemical functions. Iron is necessary for a variety of metabolic pathways, including oxygen transport, DNA synthesis, and energy production. Iron metabolism is regulated by the body to maintain a balance between dietary intake and physiological needs. Deficiencies or excesses of iron can lead to severe medical complications and diseases. This article will review iron metabolism and the pathology associated with it.

Overview of Iron Metabolism

Iron is an essential element for the human body and is the fourth most abundant element in the body, behind calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. It is mainly found in the hemoglobin of red blood cells, and is important for oxygen transport, energy production, and DNA synthesis. Iron metabolism is the process by which iron is stored, absorbed, and utilized by the body.

The body has two main mechanisms for maintaining iron balance. The first is dietary intake, which is regulated by the absorption of iron from the gastrointestinal tract and the excretion of iron by the kidney. The second mechanism is the regulation of iron storage, which is regulated by the liver and other organs. The liver is responsible for storing iron in the form of ferritin, which is released when the body needs it.

Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is a common nutritional deficiency and is the most common cause of anemia. It is caused by inadequate dietary intake, malabsorption, or increased loss of iron. Symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, pale skin, and shortness of breath. Severe iron deficiency can lead to anemia, a condition in which the red blood cells are unable to adequately carry oxygen to the body’s tissues.

The most common cause of iron deficiency is inadequate dietary intake, which is often seen in children, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions. Malabsorption of iron can occur due to certain medical conditions, such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or gastric bypass surgery. Increased iron loss can be caused by bleeding, such as from heavy menstrual periods or gastrointestinal bleeding.

Iron Overload

Iron overload is a condition in which the body stores too much iron. It can be caused by genetic mutations, or by increased intake of iron through dietary sources or supplements. Symptoms of iron overload include fatigue, joint pain, and abdominal pain.

Iron overload is most commonly caused by genetic mutations, such as hemochromatosis, which causes the body to absorb too much iron from the diet. This can lead to the accumulation of iron in the body’s organs, which can damage them. Iron overload can also be caused by excessive iron intake through dietary sources or supplements.

Treatment of Iron Deficiency and Overload

Treatment of iron deficiency usually consists of iron supplementation, either through oral tablets or intravenous injections. Treatment of iron overload usually consists of chelation therapy, which is a process of removing excess iron from the body. This is done by using drugs that bind to iron and then excrete it from the body.


Iron metabolism is an important process in human physiology, as it plays a critical role in a variety of biochemical functions. Iron deficiencies or overloads can lead to medical complications and diseases, and treatment of these conditions should be done under the care of a medical professional.

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