Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Iron Overload

Just read an interesting article on iron in The Seattle Times. In the nutrition world we hear quite a bit about iron deficiency (we especially hit this one up a lot at WIC with all the young kids and pregnant mamas). However, you don't usually hear a lot about the other end of things, iron toxicity or even just getting above the recommended levels.

While this isn't a problem for young kids or moms (the pregnant, lactating or menstruating ones) - which is usually my focus for this blog - it may be an issue for others and one that isn't really thought of.

Here is a snippet that I found the most interesting:

"These health consequences (organ damage from excess iron deposits) can develop even in people without hemochromatosis, the genetic disorder, who accumulate very high levels of stored iron. For example, among 32,000 women followed for 10 years in the Nurses' Health Study, those with the highest levels of stored iron were nearly three times as likely to have diabetes as those with the lowest levels. Likewise, among 38,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, those who consumed the most heme iron had a 63 percent greater risk of developing diabetes."

Heme iron is the iron found in animal meats which is most easily absorbed by the body.

Now I don't think everyone should avoid iron and be worried about iron overload (especially not for young moms and kids) but it is something to be aware of, especially if you have a family history of diabetes and you've ever had higher iron levels.

Anyways, just another reason to diversify your palate, reduce meat intake and increase plant food sources of iron. See NIH fact sheet for sources of iron, heme and non-heme.

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