An extensive biological control system limits the occurrence of free ionic iron that can readily participate in toxic, free radical-producing reactions. Large quantities of ingested iron are acutely toxic, and accidental ingestion of medicinal iron preparations is a leading cause of poisoning deaths in young children. Iron supplementation is also associated with gastrointestinal irritation. Iron supplements adversely affect absorption of zinc. Iron absorption is well controlled, but iron overload can result from excessive parenteral iron administration or blood transfusions. Dietary iron overload, possibly exacerbated by genetic factors, occurs in sub-Saharan tribes that consume a high-iron traditional beer prepared and stored in iron containers. Genetic factors can substantially influence body iron retention, as indicated by hemochromatosis, a relatively frequent iron storage disorder of northern European descendants characterized by excessive iron absorption and leading to life-threatening iron damage of organs in adulthood. The possible association of high iron stores with increased risk of diseases related to oxi-dative stress, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, is an area of epidemiological investigation.
See also: Adolescents: Nutritional Requirements. Anemia: Iron-Deficiency Anemia. Bioavailability. Breast Feeding. Food Fortification: Developed Countries; Developing Countries. Pregnancy: Nutrient Requirements. Supplementation: Dietary Supplements; Role of Micronutrient Supplementation; Developing Countries; Developed Countries.
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