Iron Concretion in Iron Tablets Experiment
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The aim of this experiment was to investigate the concentration of iron in iron tablet, lamb's liver and fortified cornflakes in relation to the nutritional requirements of the human body using titration. Iron plays a very important role in human health (Oxford Reference Online, 1997). It exists in the haemoglobin and myoglobin, the red pigment in the red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body (Oxford Reference Online, 1997). Increase or decrease in absorption of iron depends on the need of the body itself (healthoma.com, 2007). Iron also assists in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is a source of energy in the body (livestrong.com, 2011). Similar to other nutrients, iron must be kept at a constant balance in the body (livestrong.com, 2011). Therefore, over dosage of iron leads to toxicity while lack of iron causes anaemia.
In order to maintain a healthy balanced diet, it is recommended that a variety of foods from each food group are consumed in the right proportions (BBC.CO.UK, 2012). Every food contains different nutritional value and some examples of food which are the best sources for iron includes tuna, liver, egg yolks, dried beans, lean red beef and iron-fortified cereals while black tea and dairy products interferes with iron absorption in the body (livestrong.com, 2011). Since the 1950s in the UK, all wheat flours except wholemeal have been fortified with iron and many breakfast cereals are also fortified with iron to contribute to iron intake in the body (Nutrition.org.uk, 2009). The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for iron required by individuals of different gender, age and sex is shown on the table in Figure 1.
Iron absorption is affected by the iron status of each individual depending on the type of food eaten, amount of Vitamin-C intake and many more. People with low concentration of iron in the body will tend to absorb more iron than those with sufficient iron. There are two forms of iron namely heme and non-heme (colostate.edu, 2010). Most irons are present in the diet in the form of 40 percent heme and 60 percent non-heme (colostate.edu, 2010). Non-heme irons are found in fruits, vegetables and iron fortified foods (colostate.edu, 2010). These irons have a lower percentage of heme iron being absorbed which is important because heme iron is only found in animal flesh which may be a disadvantage for vegetarians (colostate.edu, 2010).
In this experiment, the concentration of iron in iron tablet, lamb's liver and fortified cornflakes are determined through titration. Titration is a method of analysis that allows the precise end point of a reaction to be determined (Dartmouth.edu, 2000). At the same time, the precise quantity of reactant in the titration flask can be calculated. An indicator is used to indicate the end point of the reaction which is usually observed through the colour change (Dartmouth.edu, 2000). Potassium Manganate (VII) solution was used in this experiment and the colour change from colourless to pink was observed.
Burette containing Potassium Manganate (VII)
Retort Stand with Clamp
Pestle and Mortar
Conical Flask containing solution
The experiment was set up as shown on Figure 2 above. An iron tablet was grinded with approximately 2cm3 of Sulphuric acid using a pestle and mortar. The mixture was then transferred into a 100cm3 volumetric flask and the remaining space was filled with 1.0 mol dm-3 Sulphuric acid until it reaches the graduation point at 100cm3. A stopper was put on the flask and shaken thoroughly to mix. Later, a burette was filled with 0.005M Potassium Manganate (VII) solution until it reaches the graduation mark and placed on the retort clamp. Exactly 20.0cm3 of the newly prepared solution was transferred into a conical flask using a pipette for titration to be performed. The amount of 0.005M Potassium Manganate (VII) required turning the solution in the conical flask to pale pink was recorded on a table. The steps were later repeated with prepared samples of lamb's liver and fortified cornflakes solution. An additional 10ml of 1.0 mol dm3 Sulphuric acid was added into the conical flask each time before the titration of lamb's liver solution was conducted. The titration was repeated three times to obtain a mean value followed by standard deviation.
According to the results obtained above, an Iron tablet, lamb's liver solution and fortified cereal solution contains 0.0672g, 0.0163g and 5.83x10-3g of iron respectively. This shows that an iron tablet contains ten times the concentration of iron contained in 1g of fortified cereals and four times the content in 1g of lamb's liver. The outcome of this experiment is accurate because the figures are obtained from titration which determines the precise end point of the reaction between potassium manganate (VII) solution and the 3 solutions in each conical flask (Dartmouth.edu, 2000).
The mean of each volume of Potassium Manganate (VII) solution required to reach the end point of the reaction were calculated along with the standard deviation. Standard deviation is a measure of deviation of observed data from the mean obtained and small standard deviation indicated that observations cluster around the mean while a large number indicated that the data are scattered from the mean (Oxford Reference Online, 2008). From the results shown above, the standard deviations for all 3 experiments are relatively small which indicate the precision of accuracy of data in this experiment. The titration values did not deviate from the mean.
By comparing the mass of iron obtained from the iron tablet in the experiment to the actual mass of iron mentioned in the iron tablet bottle, the experimental value is 0.0672g while the actual value is 0.0130g. This proves that not all the iron tablets contain the same concentration of iron and that the value printed on the bottle is just an average or estimate value. Another explanation for the difference in the experimental value is that there might be traces of Vitamin-C present in the iron tablet for enhancement of iron absorption in the body which will affect the experimental result because Vitamin-C is an oxidizing agent and this will require more KMnO4 solution to reach the end point of the iron tablet solution in the volumetric flask.
Iron tablets are supplements used to boost the iron concentration in the body and thus the concentration of iron in the tablet is too much for a healthy person to take in daily. Lamb's liver is a good source of iron if consumed in a healthy balanced diet as it contains high concentration of iron in 1g of liver as compared to 1g of fortified cornflakes in reference to the experimental results.
According to National Health Service (NHS), it is better to have a balanced diet rather than consuming iron tablets unless if the person is iron deficient (NHS.uk, 2011). Most people are able to get all the iron they need by eating a balanced diet and thus no supplements are required (NHS.uk, 2011). The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of iron for a healthy individual is not more than 20mg per day with exception for pregnant woman who requires 27mg daily. If a healthy individual consume an iron tablet daily, it would be 3 times the amount required by the body and if prolonged this will cause overdosing.
Iron overload is the accumulation of excess iron in body tissues (CDC.gov, 2011). Hemochromatosis is the disease resulting from significant iron overload (CDC.gov, 2011). As a matter of fact, iron overdose is one of the toxicological agents that have been causing deaths in children younger than the age of 6 (medscape.com, 2011). Iron is usually used as a pediatric vitamin supplement and thus it tempts young children because it looks like candy (medscape.com, 2011). Other than that, iron is also used for treatment of anaemia through frequent blood transfusions which may cause the development of chronic iron toxicity (medscape.com, 2011). Furthermore, iron overdose can damage the heart and brain which may lead to heart attack or stroke (healthoma.com, 2011). An excess of iron storage in the body can also cause atherosclerosis and ischemic heart disease (healthoma.com, 2011).
One should immediately contact the Poison Control Center if iron overdose is reported (healthoma.com, 2011). Treatment for iron poisoning may include removing iron from the stomach and giving a chelating agent, which binds up the iron in the bloodstream, and helps eliminate excessive iron from the body (healthoma.com, 2011).
Iron deficiency occurs when there is too little iron in the body. This is the most common nutritional deficiency condition as more than 2 billion people worldwide suffer from iron deficiency anaemia (Nutrition.org.uk, 2009). In particular, pregnant woman and teenage girls require more concentration of iron in the body while men require less. For example, loss of blood during the menstrual cycle every month increases iron requirements in the short term for teenage girls (Nutrition.org.uk, 2009). To prevent iron deficiency, a healthy diet which consists of vegetables, fruits, milk products, lean meat, eggs and more should be consumed daily (CDC.gov, 2011). In addition, one should also eat foods that help the body to absorb iron better such as fruits and vegetables that are good source of Vitamin C with the food containing non-heme iron to help the body to promote iron absorption when eaten at the same meal (CDC.gov, 2011).
Few years ago, a study research conducted by an Iranian university shows that an excess intake of iron in pregnant women may harm both the mother and foetus health (BBCNews.co.uk, 2007). Although iron is used to combat iron deficiency during pregnancy, most mothers tend to consume extra iron or multivitamin which leads to blood pressure problems (BBCNews.co.uk, 2007). Therefore, this is a supporting evidence for pregnant women to consume more healthy food alongside consuming an iron tablet daily and have a balanced diet rather than taking lots of iron tablets which may lead to overdosing.
Nevertheless, there are a few errors that occurred in this experiment. Firstly, the most significant error in the experiment is the determination of end point as it is not equal to the equivalence point and the colour change of indicator is not instant. This is because some individuals may misjudge the colour of the indicator near the end point and have different sensitivity to colours (titrations.info, 2011). To improve this, the titration should be conducted at least 3 times so that an average value can be obtained. Secondly, there might be errors with the volumetric glass accuracy. To improve this, careful calibration of the glassware can be done (titrations.info, 2011). Other than that, a careful selection of pipettes and burettes can also be done to minimize the errors (titrations.info, 2011).
To conclude, vitamins supplements are only to be consumed when recommended by the doctors. An overdose of iron in the body may cause adverse effects which may result in death. If one follows a balanced healthy diet, it is not necessary to take any extra supplements as all foods contain specific nutritional value that is beneficial to the body. It is important that an individual have a healthy and balanced diet to have a healthy lifestyle.
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