The Dangers of Too Much Iron in the Body

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Iron is an essential mineral that promotes the generation of hemoglobin in the red blood cells. The more red blood cells you have, the more efficient the heart becomes in delivering oxygen to the cells, tissues and organs. While iron deficiency affects over 30% of the world’s population, there are those who suffer from excessive iron too. In today’s post, we are listing down the dangers of excessive iron in the system:

Iron Poisoning

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, the recommended dosage for iron is 45 milligrams per day. If you take more than the recommended dosage, you will suffer from iron poisoning. Iron poisoning destroys healthy cells in the gastrointestinal tract. This condition leads to vomiting, bloody diarrhea and in rare cases, death.

Hemochromatosis

Hemochromatosis is disorder wherein the body absorbs too much iron from food. This is usually an inherited condition, but there were cases wherein people developed hemochromatosis despite no family history of having it. A person that absorbs excessive iron will start developing liver, heart and pancreatic disorders. That’s because the iron will accumulate in these organs. Eventually, this leads to skin discoloration, diabetes, and organ damage.

Cancer

Too much iron in the system also leads to liver cancer. That’s because, in high levels, iron is a toxic compound. Those afflicted with hemochromatosis are the most susceptible to liver cancer. But anyone can develop liver cancer from taking too much iron. According to a report published by the Linus Pauling Institute, increasing iron intake could also lead to colorectal cancer. The presence of iron in the colon exposes cells to free radicals, causing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress triggers healthy cells to mutate.

Neurodegenerative Disease

Excessive level of iron could also lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. As a nutrient, iron aids in normal brain and nerve functions. However, accumulated iron leads to faster oxidative stress. The brain is extremely sensitive to oxidative stress. Once exposed to it, the brain will start degenerating.

Factors to Consider Before Taking Iron Supplements

Researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center also pointed out that iron poisoning is common among children. That’s why it’s important to track your kid’s iron supplements dosage. Always take the supplements under the supervision of a health care provider.

In addition, do not take iron supplements in conjunction with calcium supplements. Both nutrients cancel each other out. We recommend waiting at least an hour after taking calcium supplements to take iron supplements, never at the same time.

Avoid drinks that contain tannins when you are taking iron supplements. Tannins are usually found in coffee, tea and wine. These compounds give these beverages their bitter aftertaste. Unfortunately, tannins will block iron absorption. These nutrients also remove iron from the system, leading to iron deficiency.

When it comes to taking iron supplements, it’s best to do so on an empty stomach. This minimizes the chances of ingesting drinks or food that will block iron. In addition, some people are sensitive to iron so taking it on an empty stomach minimizes the discomforts associated with this nutrient.


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