Sunday, January 18, 2009

Katherine, Essential Elements: Zinc and Iron

Iron, as a trace mineral, and zinc, as a metal, are both vital elements to a functioning human body. Both elements are essential components in a healthy diet, although iron tends to be more important for younger women; they lose iron in the blood loss that accompanies their monthly cycle, and therefore are more likely to be iron-deficient. As a result, some suffer from iron deficiency anemia, in which they experience weakness, fatique, and an inability to concentrate. In addition, iron is necessary for a healthy, functioning body in that it is a part of hemoglobin, the substance that transports oxygen from your lungs to your cells. Fortunately, many foods contain iron, including fish, raisins, whole-grain cereals, meat, and dark-green leafy vegetables. Iron-deficiency can also be corrected by taking iron supplements. In contrast to young women, some men suffer from an iron excess, which although is slowly eliminated from the body, in larger doses it can be dangerous, as too high a dose could seriously damage the pancreas and the liver.

Zinc is also necessary for a healthy body, and specifically for its use in the body's enzymes. Zinc can also be found in food such as shellfish, meat, and dairy products.

Unfamiliar Terms:

iron deficiency anemia: occurs when iron-deficiency is particularly severe and hemoglobin cannot form, which hinders the ability of a person to perform physical labor, while also resulting in the stunting of growth and learning in children.

enzyme: a protein that speeds up a chemical reaction in a living organism.

Reaction: This article to illustrated the importance of both eating healthily and knowing and being informed about bodily processes, and especially those that affect people in differing ways. I didn't know that women on their menstrual cycles lose iron in the process! To me, this seems like very important information to know, as it can hinder both mental and physical activities, and can be dangerous if left uncorrected. I think that the overall media portrayal of women's periods being "unspeakable" or even "gross" perhaps contributes to the fact that some women are anemic or iron-deficient, in that women might not know everything about their bodies and how they relate to their overall health.

Baird, Colin. Chemistry in Your Life. W. H. Freedman and Company: New York, 2006.

"Enzyme" Jan 14 2009.

"Iron deficiency anemia." eMedicine. Jan 14 2009.

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