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Iron is the most abundant trace element in the body. The average adult contains about 5g, bound with protein., and it's a necessary part of the human diet, and an essential component of haemoglobin, the molecule in the blood of all animals, that helps them absorb oxygen.

In the human body, it carries oxygen from the lungs to all the cells of the body, increases the body's resistance to infection and, when needed, aids in any healing process.

A deficiency of iron causes anaemia - the first symptom of which is tiredness. However, iron absorption can be problematic, as only 8 per cent of ingested iron is actually absorbed and assimilated.. For proper absorption, iron needs adequate stomach acid, a deficiency of which is common in the elderly. Protein, copper, calcium and vitamins C, B6, B12 an E are also needed.

Foods rich in iron include offal - particularly liver; oatmeal, prunes, egg yolks, fortified breakfast cereals, dark-green vegetables (such as spinach) and oysters; while Brewer's yeast is a good natural supplement.

Excess consumption of coffee and tea can cause a depletion of iron. The RDA for iron is 10mg for men and 18mg for women, the latter's requirements being more during menstruation.

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