Why are low iron levels so common? iron deficiency a worldwide problem

Iron deficiency and anaemia affect more than 3.5 billion people around the world (World health Organization) resulting in health problems and cognitive impairment at all stages of life.

One reason is that we nowadays eat less of a diet that contains less of iron-rich meat courses than our voracious and hard-working ancestors.

We also have a different beauty concept today with a thin body as the ideal and thus less energy-and mineral-rich food is consumed.

Women who menstruate for three days or more therefore almost always need a supplement of iron to compensate for the blood loss.

Other risk groups are athletes, growing youngsters, the pregnant and lactating.

Grown men rarely suffer from iron deficiency.

What happens when the iron levels are low?

You may get tired, have concentration problems, bad hair and nails and feel generally weak. Low iron count has also been shown to have a negative impact on the learning ability as well as the physical ability.

Iron status of the pregnant and those who plan pregnancy has an effect on the weight of the fetus. Even to such a degree that it affects the health status of a person during the whole lifetime. Also the uptake of cadmium is increased, which may lead to osteoporosis.

What forms of digestible iron are there?

The elemental iron is called organic or heme iron when it is bound to the proteins hemoglobin or myoglobin, as is the case in meat courses.

All other forms of iron are inorganic or non-heme and this is when the iron molecule is chelated or bound to for instance salts (as in vegetables) starch, citrates or other chemical compunds.

Our bodies can utilize both forms, but heme iron is vastly superior both in intake and tolerance.

How is the iron stored in the body?

Iron is stored, mostly in the liver, as ferritin or hemosiderin. In a blood test the Hb-value tells how much iron in the form of hemoglobin the body has available for transporting oxygen to the cells. The ferritin count is used to measure stored iron.

The liver's stores of ferritin are the primary physiologic source of reserve iron in the body.

Iron deficiency first affects the storage iron in the body. Since iron is primarily required for hemoglobin, iron deficiency anemia is the primary clinical manifestation of iron deficiency.

What affects the uptake?

Coffee, tea, milk and whole-grain bread have a lessening effect on iron uptake, while Vitamin C, for instance in orange juice, has a positive effect.

The heme iron in meat courses is being absorbed through a separate mechanism and is practically uninfluenced by what is eaten at the same time.

The calcium in milk products is however regarded as having a generally lessening effect on iron uptake.

The uptake of heme iron is not affected by simultaneously ingested food, drink or medication, since it follows a different and separate parallel uptake mechanism.

Can you get too much iron?

Yes, if you for instance suffer from the rare and hereditary disease of hemochromatosis or if you suddenly are exposed to huge doses. The poisoning dose is considered to be 20 mg or more iron per kilo of body weight. The result is primarily nausea, but it may also be dangerous. This is the reason that iron supplements should always be kept out of reach for children.

From Heme-Iron only what is needed is absorbed. The rest remains inert in the gut, as opposed to non-heme iron, which leaves the not-absorbed part as toxic and reactive free iron ions in the stomach causing gastro-intestinal side-effects.. The efficacy of heme iron is so good, that a small dose is all that’s needed for iron replacement..

I understand that the source for heme iron is bovine blood from the food industry. What about BSE and such?

There is no BSE within the EU any longer and certification is very strict. Today this is not even theoretically a problem.

Heme iron is an organic product based on bovine hemoglobin. Is it safe?

Heme iron tablet supplements have been in use in Scandinavia for more than 30 years. There has been no cases of serious side-effects or poisonings reported after use by literally millions.

The raw material for OptiFer® is pharma-grade and comes with all necessary certification

The OptiFer® tablets contain only 18 mg of iron. Is this enough?

The first heme supplements had to be augmented by adding non-heme iron to reach therapy dose.

Today a new raw material has been developed. All the iron in the OptiFer®-series of products is heme iron.

Since hemoglobin iron is so well absorbed, the efficacy means that the dose easily can compete with non-heme products with 50 mg or more per dose. (see “Iron supplementation in pregnancy: is less enough”, Eskeland et al. Acta Obstet Gyn Scand 76 1997)

Is there an upper limit to raw material availability?

The food industry is well equipped to produce much more raw material than needed for supplement tablets.

There will not be a shortage of hemoglobin raw material.

Is the raw material, being organic, very sensitive?

The dried raw material powder when used as a in tablets is totally inert over time and not susceptible to any disturbance.

The product withstands time and the tablets are packed in airtight blister charts. Storage instructions are: Dry at room temperature.

Supplement/Food legislation however implies a best-before date, usually two or three years from date of manufacture.

How safe is heme iron? What do we know historically?

No serious side-effects or poisonings have ever been reported even after massive use since introduction in Scandinavia in the seventies.

In clinical studies the ratio of side-effects is placebo level (lowest possible). It is very unlikely for poisoning to occur with the low doses in heme iron tablets.

Find out more at www.optifer.international

Created By
Michael Collan, NutriCare Division of MediTec Group NutriCare, MediTec Group


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