Dietary iron is obtained from food in heme form present in animal food and non-heme sources. Meat, poultry, oily fishes and meat products are high-grade sources of heme iron. Non-heme iron can be obtained from fortified cereals, tofu, legumes, and dark green vegetables. The bioavailability of heme iron is better than non-heme iron. A continual supply of iron is needed for routine activities in the body. It is needed for making hemoglobin and other proteins. Adult men need about 8mg of iron per day, whereas women require 18 mg until the age of menopause. After menopause, adult women need the same iron levels as men. Although the iron requirements are lower in older adults, various factors could lower iron levels. Changes in dietary patterns that incorporate less vitamin C, heme-rich food, or increased intakes of phytates or calcium could cause iron loss. Iron loss could also occur due to chronic health conditions such as inflammation, cancer in the gastrointestinal tracts, and frequent blood drawings. When there is not sufficient iron in the body, it causes deficiency anemia. Symptoms of iron deficiency could make older adults less strong and more prone to falls. There could be severe complications that arise from anemia. It weakens the immune system and lowers mental functioning as well. Excess iron can also be harmful to older adults. It increases the chances of type 2 diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders. Thus, it is necessary to ensure that older adults receive the right balance of iron intake through their diet. This could help prevent severe complications of iron deficiency in old age.
Requirements and Deficiency
Some of the iron obtained through diet is stored in human bodies. However, an adequate regular supply of iron is required. Without adequate levels of iron, an individual may suffer iron deficiency. All adults over the age of 19 have a consistent iron requirement. Older men need about 8 mg of iron per day. On the other hand, women need 18 mg of iron per day. Older adults’ iron requirements may drop after menopause to the same levels as that of men. Iron is required throughout a person’s life to make hemoglobin, the molecule that carries oxygen on the red blood cells to all tissues in the body. Iron is also associated with other proteins in the body. Iron deficiency can cause deficiency anemia. Deficiency symptoms are tiredness, weak and coldness, lower energy levels, shortness of breath, irritability, dizziness, ineffective immune system, and slower mental functioning.
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