Iron

Dr Daniel J Bell et al.

Iron (chemical symbol, Fe) is one of the trace elements that is essential for normal human health due to its central importance in the structure and function of haemoglobin and the cytochromes.

Iron is a transition metal with atomic number 26 and an atomic weight of 55.847. It exists in two main oxidation states: ferric (Fe (III) or Fe3+) and ferrous (Fe (II) or Fe2+) forms. 

In the normal diet iron may be found in meat, eggs, cereals, and some fruits and vegetables. 

Generally iron in food is in the ferric (Fe3+) form but the body absorbs elemental iron in the ferrous (Fe2+) form. Reduction from ferric to ferrous forms is assisted to a great extent by gastric juice, which puts the iron into solution and allows it to complex with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and other substances that reduce the iron. This is reflected in the iron deficient state that results following a removal of part or all of the stomach, without adequate iron replacement therapy.

Iron is of central importance as a key constituent of:

  • haemoglobin
  • cytochromes in the electron transport chain 
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Article information

rID: 64247
System: Haematology
Section: Pathology
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Ferrous iron
  • Ferric iron
  • Iron (Fe)

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