Iron deficiency is the most wide-spread, arising in the Third World countries as well as in rich countries. According to the WHO, this deficiency touches 500 to 800 million people, vegetarians as well as omnivores.

It develops when the absorption of the iron does not cover our needs in this mineral anymore. It is the case when:

  • The diet is poor in iron
  • The absorption is weak
  • The body has important demands: growth, pregnancy, breast feeding...
  • There are important losses of blood (wounds, surgery) or small but over a long period (hemorrhoids, intestinal worms, cancer of intestines)
    1 ml of blood contains 0.5 mg of iron.

The anemia evolves in three stages
1 iron deficit: the iron stocks of the body become poor. The ferritin level is lower than 15 mcg by liter. The ferritin's concentration reflects stocks; every mcg of ferritine by liter of serum corresponds to 10 mg of iron in reserve.

Remarks: certain diseases can falsify the values. In case of inflammatory or hepatic disease, the concentration of ferritin can be high while the iron reserves are weak.

2 Iron deficiency: decrease of the iron's transport in red blood cells

3 Iron anemia: the iron concentration is low and the production of hemoglobin is weak. The oxygenation of our tissues is limited and the symptoms of deficiency are felt.

Realized by Laurence LIVERNAIS-SAETTEL, dietitian
© Copyright L. Livernais-Saettel 2003
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