As we have learned in previous chapters, it is the organic iron derived from vegetables, fruits, and unprocessed cereals taken first-hand from nature, that builds and maintains the hemaoglobin (red coloring matter) of the blood. Horticulture has taught us that even plants may suffer from anaemia. Deprived of iron, their leaves become a pale green, and the flower lacks brilliance and luster. The only remedy for this unfavorable condition among plants is the introduction of iron, either by the pouring of water from rusty iron filings into the soil around the roots of the affected plant, or by the addition of iron-containing fertilizer to the earth.
The human sufferer from anaemia has a sallow complexion, his face, lips, and finger nails are pale, because his oxygen supply is insufficient to burn up the body waste, and it accumulates in the tissues. His oxygen supply is insufficient because of a lack of haemoglobin in the red blood cells. It is this iron containing haemoglobin in the blood which entraps the oxygen in its passage through the lungs, and carries it to all parts of the body, thus facilitating the oxidation of the body wastes. Oxygen, moreover, is needed to release the energy stored in the soluble food that has been carried to the tissues by the blood; and because of its lack, the patient is weak and languid. His appetite is often poor, because the food eaten and not properly assimilated has accumulated as wastes in the tissues. He is short of breath, even though the lungs supply an abundance of oxygen and the heart be not at fault, because sufficient oxygen is not carried to its destination in the cells of the tissues, there to burn up the food and release energy. Thus the ultimate effect on the body is practically the same as if the air supply were in part cut off by disease of the lungs or by other cause.
This organic iron is present in all the internal secretions of the human body, and possesses chemical properties by means of which it is able to absorb and condense oxygen, carrying it through the circulation to every minute cell of the body, and bringing it into immediate contact with each minute waste particle, carrying back to the lungs the products of combustion in the forni of carbon dioxide. This great work of oxidation and elimination of poisonous matter, which is constantly going on within the body, is all dependent upon the presence of a small but definite amount of iron in the blood.
Experiments on animals have shown that the ordinary iron with which we are all familiar (inorganic), such as that found in a blacksmith shop, or any of its compounds contained in medicines or mineral waters, cannot be utilized in keeping good the stock of haemoglobin. On the contrary, natural foodstuffs contain iron in the organic form only (made by the plants), which is the source of iron used by the body in the formation of haemoglobin. Professor Sherman, in commenting on the experiments of Bunge along this line, says :
“Inorganic iron, when absorbed, is not utilized in the formation of haemoglobin to any appreciable extent, but remains unused in the tissues a strong indication that medicinal iron acts by stimulation rather than as material for the construction of haemoglobin. Evidently, then, we should look to food rather than to medicines and mineral waters for the supply of iron needed in normal nutrition.” “Chemistry of Food and Nutrition.”