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topic 44837

Nursing student asks about nails as source of iron nutrition


Hi.. I am a nursing student in my third year this incoming school year.. my clinical instructor posted a question for us to answer.. I tried to find the answer but I guess it is not enough to answer the question properly so I try to ask this from you.. is the rust or iron from the nails can be consumed by humans as iron nutrient for the body? it would be a great help for me and my entire nutrition class if you would give me a scholarly answer to my question.. thanks..

Mae Angeli Lacson
student - General Santos City, Philippines


Hello Mae,
Because people have to get tetanus shots, or have them up to date when a nail penetrates the skin, I would say the obvious answer should be NO. There are other trace metals that make up the nail that are dangerous to the human body. Iron supplements (vitamins) are ultra purified for human consumption. Some of the old school farmers used to bury rusty nails in the soil to be absorbed by root systems though. I don't know if that would be a good idea today.

Mark Baker
Process Engineer - Syracuse, New York


This is not scholarly,
About 1910 they gave my grandmother rust water to improve her iron content after bleeding very badly during child birth. She died a few weeks later.
As I understand it, raw iron and iron oxide (rust) is not digested very well by the body. The iron in vitamins is in a form that is digested by the body much better. Even in this form, some people have side effects like gas and constipation.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


Mae, For anything to be useful to the body, it has to be bio-available. That is, it must be in a form that the human body can cope with. Shoveling a patient full of rust is not a good idea because the rust needs to be converted from the solid into a solution (or to "ions"). In theory this can be done in the stomach, where there is an excess of hydrochloric acid, but in reality it will just cause a massive stomach upset with an equally horrible mess! The next alternative is to introduce the iron in a form that can be easily absorbed by the body. This is usually done by giving a solution of ferrous sulphate, which can be absorbed quite easily, thereby giving the body its much needed iron. Iron is also needed by pregnant women and they are often given it as a mixture of iron salts and folic acid, as folic acid can not only help administer the iron, but it an also help stop babies getting spina bifida

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK

October 14, 2008

What is the difference between the iron rust and an iron nutrient. We boiled a meat and we mixed a iron with rust while boiling so that the meat absorbed the iron nutrient. Is that a good idea to eat the meat and have a good health?

Aries Castro
employee - Philippine

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