Iron, which was the metal symbolising strength in magical systems, used to be given to people suffering from weakness, and no doubt many were benefited, some psychologically (placebo reactors) and others because the weakness was due to iron deficiency anaemia. The rational use of iron could not begin until both the presence of iron in the

'colouring matter' of the blood and the 'defective nature of the colouring matter' in anaemia were recognised. In fact iron is essential not only to oxygen transport by red cells but as a catalyst for oxidative metabolism in all cells.

• Total body iron is 3 S g (40—50 mg/kg) (male female}.

• Haemoglobin contains about two-thirds of total body iron.

• Stores comprise about one-third (ferritin, a water-soluble protein-iron complex, and /loemos/derH an insoluble aggregate) in liver, marrow, spleen and muscle.

• S- 10% is present in tissues throughout the body in myoglobin, a variety of heme enzymes (e.g. cytochromes) and non-haem enzymes (e.g.

m eta I loflavo proteins)

• Average Western diet contains 10 IS mg

0.S 1.0 mg/d, which is adequate for an adult male or postmenopausal female but the menstruating or pregnant woman requires 1-3 mg/d.

• Iron deficient or pregnant woman absorbs about 30% of dietary iron.

• Iron is lost from the body mainly in desquamated skin and gut cells and the daily loss in men is under

I mg/day. in normal menstruating females I.Smg/day and in pregnancy averages 2 trig/day.

• Menstrual loss is about 30 mg/period;menstruating women may therefore be in negative iron balance.

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