The chemical element iron has the atomic number 26 and the symbol Fe, which comes from the Latin word ferrum. It belongs to the first transition series of metals. By mass, it is the most prevalent element on Earth and makes up a large portion of both the outer and inner core. It ranks as the fourth most prevalent element in the crust of the Earth. Its abundant production by fusion in high-mass stars, where it is the last element to be produced with the release of energy before collapse into a compact object, is the reason for its abundance in rocky planets like Earth.

What is Iron?

Iron can exist in a wide range of oxidation states, from 2 to +6, like the other group 8 elements ruthenium and osmium, but +2 and +3 are by far the most prevalent. However, elemental iron reacts with oxygen, water, and air and is found in meteoroids and other low oxygen environments. Fresh iron surfaces have a lustrous silvery-gray appearance, but in regular air, they oxidize and produce hydrated iron oxides, also known as rust. The iron oxides, in contrast to the metals, occupy more volume than the metal and, as a result, flakes off, exposing new surfaces to corrosion.

Halogen and chalcogen atoms combine with iron to form binary compounds. Ferrocene, the first sandwich compound identified, is one of its organometallic compounds.

Heath Benefits

A vital nutrient, iron is important for many physiological processes. Some of the health advantages of iron include:

1. Assists in the movement of oxygen throughout the body: Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin, a protein present in red blood cells that aids in the movement of oxygen from the lungs to other body tissues. Iron deficiency anemia results from the body's inability to produce enough hemoglobin when iron levels are insufficient.

2. Improves memory and cognitive function: Iron is also important for brain growth and cognitive function. Low iron levels have been linked to issues with memory and attention span in adults as well as delayed cognitive development in infants and young children.

3. Promotes a strong immune system: Immune cells are produced with the help of iron. White blood cells, which aid in the fight against infection, cannot be produced by the body in sufficient quantities without enough iron.

4. Prevents fatigue: Since iron is necessary for the transport of oxygen, a deficiency in iron can result in feelings of weakness and exhaustion. People with iron deficiency anemia have shown to have higher energy levels after taking iron supplements.

5. Encourages a healthy pregnancy: During pregnancy, iron is crucial for the development of the fetus and placenta. Low birth weight and birth defects are also prevented by it. Iron deficiency during pregnancy increases the risk of early labor and delivery.

Over two billion people worldwide suffer from iron deficiency, making it the most widespread nutritional deficiency. Eating a varied diet that includes iron-rich foods, such as red meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, spinach, and iron-fortified cereals and breads, is the best way to ensure adequate iron intake. Some people may need iron supplements, especially if they have chronic blood loss or certain gastrointestinal conditions.

Side Effects

Even though iron is necessary for health, too much of it can be toxic. Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, headache, dizziness, and fatigue are all signs of iron toxicity. More serious issues like liver damage, heart issues, and diabetes can result from iron overload. Iron toxicity is especially dangerous for those who have hemochromatosis, a hereditary condition that causes the body to absorb too much iron. In addition to removing the excess iron's source (such as supplements or fortified foods), chelation therapy, which involves taking medication to remove extra iron from the body, is one method of treating iron toxicity.


For men, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron is 8 mg, while for women it is 18 mg. The recommended daily iron intake for pregnant women is 27 mg. Adults should not consume more than 45 mg of iron daily. No more than 40 mg should be taken daily by kids and teenagers.


Certain supplements and medications can interact with iron. For instance, iron supplements should be taken on an empty stomach because it may reduce the absorption of non-heme iron (found in plant foods). Calcium, some antibiotics, and antacids can all interact with iron. To make sure iron supplements are the right choice for you, make sure to speak with a healthcare provider before taking them.


In the small intestine, iron is absorbed and then stored in the liver, spleen, and bone marrow. It is eliminated in feces.