The Central Role of Iron in Human Nutrition: From Folk to Contemporary Medicine
IRCCS Orthopedic Institute Galeazzi, Scientific Direction, 20161 Milan, Italy
Department for Life Quality Studies, University of Bologna, 47921 Rimini, Italy
IRCCS Orthopedic Institute Galeazzi, Laboratory of Experimental Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 20161 Milan, Italy
Department of Athletics, Strength and Conditioning, Poznań University of Physical Education, 61-871 Poznań, Poland
Department of Food, Environmental and Nutritional Sciences (DeFENS), Division of Human Nutrition, University of Milan, 20133 Milan, Italy
IRCCS Orthopedic Institute Galeazzi, Postoperative Intensive Care Unit & Anesthesia, 20161 Milan, Italy
Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, 20132 Milan, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2020, 12(6), 1761; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061761
Received: 5 May 2020 / Revised: 26 May 2020 / Accepted: 9 June 2020 / Published: 12 June 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dietary Iron for Human Health)
Iron is a fundamental element in human history, from the dawn of civilization to contemporary days. The ancients used the metal to shape tools, to forge weapons, and even as a dietary supplement. This last indication has been handed down until today, when martial therapy is considered fundamental to correct deficiency states of anemia. The improvement of the martial status is mainly targeted with dietary supplements that often couple diverse co-factors, but other methods are available, such as parenteral preparations, dietary interventions, or real-world approaches. The oral absorption of this metal occurs in the duodenum and is highly dependent upon its oxidation state, with many absorption influencers possibly interfering with the intestinal uptake. Bone marrow and spleen represent the initial and ultimate step of iron metabolism, respectively, and the most part of body iron circulates bound to specific proteins and mainly serves to synthesize hemoglobin for new red blood cells. Whatever the martial status is, today’s knowledge about iron biochemistry allows us to embrace exceedingly personalized interventions, which however owe their success to the mythical and historical events that always accompanied this metal.