Background

Iron is an essential component of numerous proteins and enzymes in the human body. Over 60% of iron in the body is found in hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying pigment of the red blood cell that transports oxygen from the lungs to tissues for use in metabolism. About 4% of iron is found in myoglobin, the oxygen binding storage protein of muscle, and trace amounts are associated with electron transport and iron-dependent enzymes. A large portion of the remaining iron in the body is found stored in the form of ferritin, primarily in the liver but also in bone marrow and the spleen. With the exception of pregnancy and menstruation where there is a net outward flux of iron, the iron content of the body is highly conserved. The secretion of iron into breast milk is low, with the average milk iron being in the order of 0.35 mg/l [81]. Maternal dietary iron intake appears to have very little effect on milk iron levels.

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