Risk Associated With Iron Supplements

Risk Associated With Iron Supplements

September 15, 2019 42 By Ewald Bahringer


“Risk Associated with Iron Supplements” Iron is a double-edged sword. If we don’t absorb enough, we risk anemia. But if we absorb too much, we may be increasing our risk of
colorectal cancer, heart disease, infection, neurodegenerative disorders,
and inflammatory conditions. Other conditions that have been
associated with high iron intake include Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s,
arthritis, and diabetes. Because the human body has
no mechanism to rid itself of excess iron, we evolved to tightly regulate
the absorption of iron. If our iron stores are low, our intestines boost the
absorption of iron, and if our iron stores are topped off, our intestines block the absorption
of iron to maintain us in that sweet spot. But this only works with the
primary source of iron in the human diet— the iron found in plant foods. Our digestive system cannot regulate the
iron in ingested blood—heme iron. The iron in animal foods can just
zip right through our intestinal barrier— even if we already have
too much in our system; we have no control over it. In fact, some guess that iron overload
may be a reason meat consumption has been tied to breast cancer risk. Iron is a pro-oxidant, and can induce
oxidative stress, and DNA damage. “A high intake of iron in
developed societies may, over time, lead to a physiologic state
of iron overload in postmenopausal women, who are no longer
losing blood every month. Iron overload favors the
production of free radicals, fat oxidation, DNA damage, and may contribute to breast
[cancer development] carcinogenesis, independently or by potentiating the
effects of [other carcinogens].” Only people with a confirmed diagnosis
of iron deficiency anemia should consider supplementing their iron intake,
and even then, it can be risky. A recent study found that a
significant increase in oxidative stress happened within the bodies
of women on iron supplements. And so, before going on iron supplements, I would suggest talking to your physician
about first trying to treat it through diet alone— by eating lots of healthy iron-rich foods,
like chickpeas and pumpkin seeds, while consuming vitamin C-rich foods
at the same meal, such as citrus, tropical fruits, broccoli, bell peppers,
which improve plant iron absorption, while at the same time avoiding
drinking tea and coffee with your meals, which can impair iron absorption. Since organic acids like vitamin C
can boost iron absorption, the Coca Cola company
commissioned a study to see if drinking Coke would do the same thing. And the answer is: no.