Iron is necessary for the normal development of multiple vital processes. Iron deficiency (ID) may be caused by several diseases, even by physiological situations that increase requirements for this mineral. One of its possible causes is a poor dietary iron intake, which is infrequent in developed countries, but quite common in developing areas. In these countries, dietary ID is highly prevalent and comprises a real public health problem and a challenge for health authorities. ID, with or without anemia, can cause important symptoms that are not only physical, but can also include a decreased intellectual performance. All this, together with a high prevalence, can even have negative implications for a community's economic and social development. Treatment consists of iron supplements. Prevention of ID obviously lies in increasing the dietary intake of iron, which can be difficult in developing countries. In these regions, foods with greater iron content are scarce, and attempts are made to compensate this by fortifying staple foods with iron. The effectiveness of this strategy is endorsed by multiple studies. On the other hand, in developed countries, ID with or without anemia is nearly always associated with diseases that trigger a negative balance between iron absorption and loss. Its management will be based on the treatment of underlying diseases, as well as on oral iron supplements, although these latter are limited by their tolerance and low potency, which on occasions may compel a change to intravenous administration. Iron deficiency has a series of peculiarities in pediatric patients, in the elderly, in pregnant women, and in patients with dietary restrictions, such as celiac disease.
Keywords: dietary iron; iron deficiency; iron deficiency anemia; therapy.