Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 188, Issue 1, pp 140–147 | Cite as

Investigating the Essentiality and Requirements of Iron from the Ancient to the Present

  • Katsuhiko YokoiEmail author


This review discusses the development of studies that evaluated the essentiality and requirements of iron from the ancient to the present. The therapeutic effects of iron compounds were recognized by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The earliest recognition of the essentiality of iron was stated by Paracelsus, a distinguished physician alchemist, in the sixteenth century. Iron was included in the earliest nutritional standard prepared for the Royal Army by E. A. Parkes, the first professor of hygiene. The League of Nations Health Organisation determined average iron requirements based on literature review. In the first US Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), the RDA of iron was determined from the results of iron balance studies. In the current Dietary Reference Intakes, iron requirements were determined based on the factorial method with the aid of Monte Carlo simulation for combining basal and menstrual iron losses. Population data analysis is a recently developed alternative that does not use the pre-estimated iron absorption rate and requires the prevalence of inadequacy instead. Population data analysis uses the convolution integral for combining basal and menstrual iron losses to ensure the required accuracy. This review also provides new estimates of hair and nail iron losses.


Iron requirement Balance study Factorial method Population data analysis Menstrual iron loss Convolution integral 



This work was partly supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science KAKENHI for Scientific Research (C) (grant no. 17K00877).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human NutritionSeitoku University Graduate SchoolMatsudoJapan

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