All You Need to Know About Whole Food Iron Supplements

 

What is Whole Food Iron?

What is Dietary Iron?

Before getting into the definition of whole food iron, let’s understand the role of iron in the body. Iron is a mineral essential for many of the body’s metabolic functions. One of its main jobs is supporting hemoglobin synthesis, this is the protein inside erythrocytes or red blood cells that carries oxygen in your body. Iron is also important in muscle oxygenation as a component of myoglobin, which is a protein that is in charge of oxygen stock and distribution in muscle cells.
 

Besides blood and muscle oxygenation, other processes in the body rely on iron, such as DNA synthesis, cell division, production of connective tissue and neurotransmitters, and maintenance of the immune system.

In the body, around 60% of iron can be found in hemoglobin, 15% in myoglobin and the remaining 25% portion is stored in bone marrow, spleen, and liver.  The latter is referred to as mobilizable iron stores. In normal men and women, the total amount of body iron stores is around 600 to 1000 mg and 200 to 300 mg, respectively. 

 

Recommended Iron Intake:

The amount of iron that your body needs daily depends on many factors, such as your age, sex, and diet. As stated by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) the following are recommendations for iron intake:

The daily average level of iron intake that meets the nutrient requirements, also referred as Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), for all age groups of men and postmenopausal women is 8 mg/day, for premenopausal women is 18 mg/day and for pregnant women is 27 mg/day. And the maximum daily iron intake unlikely to cause adverse health effects, also known as The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL),  for adults is 45 mg/day. 

 

Whole Food Iron Mineral: 

Whole food is a food that is minimally processed; the components within the food have not been extracted or purified, and do not contain preservatives. When we talk about whole food iron supplements we refer to iron that is found within the food rather than made artificially. NeuTerre™ Whole Food Iron is naturally derived by fermentation with Aspergillus oryzae, also known as Koji culture.

Koji Minerals are whole foods recognized as traditional Asian foods.  Koji has been widely used for more than 2000 years in fermentation to produce rice vinegars, miso, amazake (rice drink), and many other applications in brewing, distilling, and baking. Koji Minerals are also generally recognized as safe (GRAS) in the USA.

 

 

How does Dietary Iron Work?

How Does the Body Absorb and Store Iron?

One of the factors that influence the absorption of dietary iron in humans is the chemical form of iron. In the Earth’s crust, iron is mainly found in insoluble forms, like ferric oxide and its salts. These are poorly absorbed by humans and have only become available through their incorporation into plants and animals by bacteria and fungi.  Through this mechanism, insoluble iron is converted to soluble forms now common in our foods.

 
Non-heme iron derived from plants and heme-iron from animal sources are absorbed by our small intestine and then released into the blood. Once in the blood, the iron is transported by a protein called transferrin to be stored in various tissues and organs. When iron is rapidly absorbed from the diet, it gets released too quickly into the blood, overcoming the ability of transferrin to safely carry it in the body thus producing non-transferrin bound iron (NTBI).  This is a form of free reactive iron which is harmful to the body.

The human body stores iron in the form of ferritin and hemosiderin in liver, spleen, marrow, duodenum, skeletal muscle and other organs. The iron-binding protein ferritin regulates blood-iron levels in your body. When iron levels are low, ferritin facilitates the release of iron into the blood. It can also help in storing the excess of iron if the blood-iron concentration is high.

Normal blood ferritin levels range 20-500 mcg/L and 20-200 mcg/L in men and women, respectively. Presently, there is no consensus on cut-off for ferritin with values ranging from 15 mcg/L from the World Health Organization to 16–32 mcg/L. Low and high ferritin levels are directly related to iron disorders, like anemia and iron overload, respectively.

New scientific evidence shows that ferritin values below 15 mcg/L indicate no iron stores in male and female athletes; and ferritin values from 15-30 mcg/L correspond to low iron stores. These researchers recommend a minimum ferritin cut-off of 30 mcg/L.  

 

What are Slow Release Whole Food Iron Supplements? 


One of the most commonly used iron sources is ferrous sulfate. Oral intake of ferrous sulfate produces harmful free iron (NTBI) in the blood because of its rapid rate of absorption. Free reactive iron has been associated with increased oxidative stress, cellular aging (telomere shortening), and susceptibility to infections, which can be hard on your body and health.

NeuTerre™ is a Slow Release Whole Food Iron capsule, meaning that the iron is gradually released into the body over a period of time and does not cause the production of harmful free iron.

In addition, NeuTerre™ is proven to be highly bioavailable. Bioavailability refers to how well your body is able to absorb a certain nutrient. Clinical studies have shown that NeuTerre™ Whole Food Iron capsules are absorbed by the body and get incorporated into the red blood cells.

NeuTerre™ is also known to be gentle on the system, improving iron stores without the formation of harmful free iron in the blood.  

 

 

 

Healthy Diet: the Key to Getting the Iron that You Need

Considering that iron takes an essential part in the body, it is crucial for us to maintain an appropriate supply of iron. Eating a well-balanced diet is a smart way to support our body’s iron needs.

People consume two types of dietary iron, heme and non-heme. Non-heme iron can be found in plants and iron-fortified foods. Non-heme iron can also be found in considerable quantities in grains such as wheat, oats, and rice, in nuts, fruits, vegetables. Whereas lean meat, seafood, and poultry contain both heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is easily absorbed by the body (high bioavailability) compared with non-heme iron.  

Foods to Avoid When You are Iron Deficient:

As specified by the US National Institute of Health (NIH), in diets including meat, seafood, and vitamin C, the bioavailability of iron is approximately 14% to 18%. While in vegetarian diets is around 5% to 12%.

There are several substances that can reduce the amount of non-heme iron we absorb, these include phytate found in grains and beans, and some polyphenols, which are micronutrients in our diet, present in some non-animal foods, such as cereals, fruits, and legumes. In addition, calcium can impair the absorption of both non-heme and heme iron. In contrast, Vitamin C enhances non-heme iron absorption. 

 

Iron-rich Foods to Include in Your Diet:

Fighting iron-deficiency can be easier when you have the proper tools. The US National Institute of Health provides in the following list, some iron-rich food sources that we can include in our diet. 

Food
Milligrams per serving
Percent of Daily value *
Breakfast cereals, fortified with 100% of the DV for iron, 1 serving
18
100
Oysters, eastern, cooked with moist heat, 3 ounces
8
44
White beans, canned, 1 cup
8
44
Chocolate, dark, 45%–69% cacao solids, 3 ounces
7
39
Beef liver, pan fried, 3 ounces
5
28
Lentils, boiled and drained, ½ cup
3
17
Spinach, boiled and drained, ½ cup
3
17
Tofu, firm, ½ cup
3
17
Kidney beans, canned, ½ cup
2
11
Sardines, Atlantic, canned in oil, drained solids with bone, 3 ounces
2
11
Chickpeas, boiled and drained, ½ cup
2
11
Tomatoes, canned, stewed, ½ cup
2
11
Beef, braised bottom round, trimmed to 1/8” fat, 3 ounces
2
11
Potato, baked, flesh and skin, 1 medium potato
2
11
Cashew nuts, oil roasted, 1 ounce (18 nuts)
2
11
Green peas, boiled, ½ cup
1
6
Chicken, roasted, meat and skin, 3 ounces
1
6
Rice, white, long grain, enriched, parboiled, drained, ½ cup
1
6
Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice
1
6
Bread, white, 1 slice
1
6
Raisins, seedless, ¼ cup
1
6
Spaghetti, whole wheat, cooked, 1 cup
1
6
Tuna, light, canned in water, 3 ounces
1
6
Turkey, roasted, breast meat and skin, 3 ounces
1
6
Nuts, pistachio, dry roasted, 1 ounce (49 nuts)
1
6
Broccoli, boiled and drained, ½ cup
1
6
Egg, hard boiled, 1 large
1
6
Rice, brown, long or medium grain, cooked, 1 cup
1
6
Cheese, cheddar, 1.5 ounces
0
0
Cantaloupe, diced, ½ cup
0
0
Mushrooms, white, sliced and stir-fried, ½ cup
0
0
Cheese, cottage, 2% milk fat, ½ cup
0
0
Milk, 1 cup
0
0

 

*The Daily Value (DV) for iron is 18 mg for female adults. For a food to be considered as a high source of a nutrient, it needs to provide 20% or more of the DV.

*The bioavailability of iron in vegetarian diets is 5% to 12% while in non-vegetarian diets is 14% to 18% (NIH). 

 

 

 

5 Reasons Why You Might Need Iron Supplements

So, with all that iron found in everyday foods, how could people run low on iron? There are several reasons: 

Inadequate dietary intake:

Your body obtains iron from the foods you eat. If your iron consumptions are low, over time your body can become iron deficient. Vegetarians, vegans and other people who don't eat meat are at higher risk of having iron deficiency anemia if other iron-rich foods are not included in their diet. In addition, some foods interfere with iron absorption. Plant-based foods that are good sources of iron, like spinach, are poorly absorbed by the body because they contain iron-absorption inhibitors. 

 

Chronic blood loss:

Your blood contains iron within its red blood cells. So when blood is lost, you lose some iron as well. Women who menstruate, especially those with heavy periods are at risk of iron deficiency anemia due to the blood lost during menstruation. People who had major surgery or physical trauma are also at risk. 

Constant blood loss within the body, such as blood loss from the gastrointestinal tract due to gastritis, esophagitis, ulcers in the stomach or bowel, hemorrhoids, or tumors in the esophagus, stomach, small bowel, or colon, can cause iron deficiency anemia.   

Frequent blood donations:

Some iron is removed from your body after a blood donation. Typically people start producing red blood cells right after donation and have no problem restoring what is lost during the process, maintaining healthy blood-iron levels. However, frequent donors may lose sufficient amounts of blood over time which depletes their body’s stores of iron. 


Vigorous exercise:

Athletes are susceptible to iron deficiency anemia because endurance exercise increases the body’s need for iron in many ways. For example, hard training raises the heart rate and causes the body and brain to need more oxygen, this need for oxygen promotes red blood cell production in the body. In order to produce red blood cells iron is necessary, this increase in iron demand and the iron lost through sweating reduces the body iron stores.

 

 

Increased iron requirements during pregnancy:

During pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body rises by about 20-30%, additionally, your iron stores are also a source of hemoglobin for the growing fetus. This increases the supply of iron that the body needs to make hemoglobin. When your body needs for iron exceed what is available, you are at risk of becoming iron deficient.

 

 

 

Consequences of Living with Iron Deficiency

A large number of the body’s iron stores are within the hemoglobin of red blood cells and transport oxygen to the body. Extra iron is stored in the liver and is used in times where dietary intake is insufficient. Long-term low iron status (ferritin < 15-30 mcg/L), where your need for dietary iron isn’t met and the rate of iron loss is higher than the iron absorbed by the body, results in iron deficiency. This puts your body in a stage of storage iron exhaustion, which can be classified into 3 stages:



1. Iron deficiency without anemia:

Hemoglobin levels are normal, but the body has a low quantity of iron stores, which will soon run out. This stage usually has no apparent symptoms. However, unexplained cases of fatigue have been associated with low iron stores in women.

 

2. Iron deficiency anemia without tissue damage:

Both iron within the blood and iron stores are low. In this stage hemoglobin levels are below normal, and you may experience some symptoms, including tiredness. 

 

 

3. Iron deficiency anemia with tissue damage:

Hemoglobin levels are so low that the blood is unable to deliver enough oxygen to the cells. Mild iron deficiency anemia generally doesn't lead to complications. However, it is in this stage where iron deficiency becomes critical and causes health problems, such as the following:

Heart problems: iron deficiency anemia can cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat. When you’re anemic, your heart must pump more blood to compensate for the deficit of oxygen carried in your blood. This may result in an enlarged heart or heart failure.

Problems during pregnancy: according to an evaluation from The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 18% of pregnant women in the United States had iron deficiency. Deficiency rates were 6.9% among women in the first trimester, 14.3% in the second trimester, and 29.7% in the third trimester. 

In pregnant women, severe iron deficiency anemia has been associated with a series of conditions for both mother and infant, including premature births, low birth weight babies, and increased risk of sepsis (extreme reaction to an infection). However, iron deficiency anemia and related adverse consequences are preventable in women using iron supplements as part of their prenatal care.


Growth problems:
as stated by the US National Institute of Health, in the United States approximately 12% of infants from ages 6 to 11 months have inadequate iron intakes, and 8% of toddlers have iron deficiency. Severe iron deficiency anemia in infants and children are related to cognitive and psychological effects, as well as delayed growth and development.

Susceptibility to infections: Iron is key for normal development of the immune system. Iron is fundamental in cell differentiation and growth, and for proper enzymatic functioning of immune cells. When a person is iron deficient, not only it is harder for the body to resist infections, but it is also difficult to fight infections once it occurs. For example, Saito H., author of the article, “Metabolism of Iron Stores”, observed that Helicobacter pylori infection appears to be related to iron deficiency by decreasing iron absorption and by increasing iron loss.

Decreased performance: Iron deficiency anemia also reduces work productivity in adults and learning ability.

 

 

 

Iron supplements might be the cherry on top in a well-balanced healthy diet in the fight against iron deficiency. Need help boosting your iron levels? Try NeuTerre™, our line of Whole Food Iron Supplements. They are naturally-derived from Koji minerals, which has been used over the centuries to make Asian fermented foods, like miso and sake. The iron in Koji is naturally stored in the cell structure for slow release, effective absorption, and ease on your body.

 

 

 

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