Iron Can Have Devastating Effects on Your Health

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December 11, 2002 | 66,197 views

Your body has the ability to naturally store iron, however, too much iron in the body may be linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other diseases.

In a recent study of elderly Americans, 13 percent of participants had high serum ferritin (SF), or iron stores, which were defined as SF levels of over 300 µg/L in men and over 200 µg/L in women. Dietary factors, including consuming iron-containing supplements, were significant risk factors.

Fruit or fruit juice and red meat were also associated with a risk of high iron stores. Participants who consumed three or more servings of fruit/fruit juice a day had a much higher risk of high iron stores than those who consumed two servings a day. Moreover, those who consumed more than four servings of red meat a weak had three times the risk of high iron stores than participants who ate four servings a week. Eating light meat, such as poultry, and seafood did not affect the risk.

An increased risk of high iron stores was also found among participants who chronically took high amounts of iron supplements (30 mg a day) intended for short-term clinical treatment. However, an increased risk was also found among those who consumed between 12 and 30 mg of iron a day, an amount commonly found in multivitamins. Researchers note that these findings suggest the use of supplemental iron, when not prescribed, by Americans who consume a Western-type diet (typically high in red meat) is unnecessary.

Conversely, the consumption of whole grains was found to decrease the risk of high iron stores. Those who consumed more than seven servings of whole grains per week had a 77 percent lower risk of high iron stores than those who did not eat whole grains. The association may be due to the inhibitory effect of fiber on the absorption of nonheme iron, researchers say.

American Journal Clinical Nutrition December 2002 76:1375-1384

This information saved my dad's life. When I tested him his iron level (ferritin)

It is important when evaluating a study to look at who performed it. This study passes as first rate as it was done at the Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, and the Boston University School of Medicine/Framingham Heart Study in Boston. This is one of the best nutrition graduate schools in the world.

To top it off, the study was funded by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, yet was still published despite its less than ideal light on beef consumption. There doesn't seem to be any conflict of interest in this study. That is one of the reasons why the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is one of my favorite journals.

Iron is nature's rusting agent, and excess levels of iron in our bodies is one of the most potent ways that our body becomes oxidized, or prematurely aged.

Iron creates a dilemma in that iron deficiency is the most common single-nutrient deficiency disease in the world and is a major concern for approximately 15 percent of the world's population. Iron is also a major nutrient needed by most children and menstruating women.

However, most men have a problem with too much iron because iron is not readily excreted through the body's usual excretory routes of urine, bile and sweat; rather, the primary way in which iron is lost is through the shedding of cells from the skin or gastrointestinal tract or through blood loss, as in menstrual blood loss or chronic or acute hemorrhage.

I believe measuring iron levels is a very important part of optimizing your health. However, simply measuring serum iron is a poor way to do this, because the most useful of the indirect measures of iron status in the body is through a measure of serum ferritin.

If you find elevated iron levels, it is VERY important to your health that you remove this excess iron by donating your blood. If you are unable to donate your blood you can have your physician write you a prescription for a theraputic phlebotomy.