February 9th, 2017
Among various micronutrients, iron is considered as one of the most vital nutrient that supports various biological activities in your body. It serves several health benefits such as synthesizing hemoglobin and minimizing the risk of anemia and related complications. However, iron can be extremely harmful if consumed in surplus amounts for extended period of time.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for iron is 8-12mg/day. But high iron intake (such as 20mg/kg or higher) can aggravate the risk of health-related problems. It is imperative to mention that doses greater than 40mg/kg can be extremely toxic for your organs and should be strictly avoided. According to a new study, more than 30% deaths in children during 1983-1991, occurred due to iron toxicity caused by inadvertent ingestion of drugs and supplements rich in iron.
There are two types of dietary iron:
Hepcidin is an iron regulatory hormone which decreases in response to low body stores of iron. The goal of this hormone is to increase the iron absorption via food. On the other hand, when iron level is too high, hepcidin level increases to block gastric absorption of iron from the food. This hepcidin system works so well that usually people have no need to worry about the iron balance in their body. However, excessive intake of iron rich diet or any other event that increases iron load in your body (such as blood transfusions, iron supplements, or other lifestyle factors) can lead to an imbalance; thereby leading to excessive iron load in tissues and blood circulation i.e. hemochromatosis.
Research studies have indicated that too low or too high iron in brain is associated with learning deficiencies and other neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and Alzheimer. As per an Australian research, increased level of ferritin (iron storing protein) is linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Excessive iron is also associated with other diseases such as, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, liver abnormalities, and increased risk of different cancers. Donating blood can help in getting rid of excess iron and prevent many health risks.
Testosterone reduces hepcidin due to which more iron is absorbed. No wonder, men have higher hemoglobin and more blood volume than women. It also explains why men are less likely to be anemic. Though, men require more iron than women but it doesn’t mean excessive iron won’t do any harm to them. Different research studies suggest that donating blood at regular intervals not only minimizes the risk of iron overload but can also directly boost testosterone levels. Aged men who consume iron rich diet and those have never donated blood can experienced suppressed functioning of hypothalamus, pituitary gland, sertoli-cells, and leydig cells, resulting in low T levels.
As per a new study, boys with iron deficiency reported a significant increase in the testosterone levels after consuming iron and vitamin A supplements. Thus, iron deficiency has negative impact on testosterone.
However, another study conducted on Chinese men indicated high level of ferritin is associated with low levels of free and total testosterone. This indicates, excessive iron is also not good for testosterone.
If you are a man, you don’t need exogenous iron supplements! Hepcidin system is efficient enough to maintain this balance until or unless there is iron malabsorption or clinically low testosterone levels. Most men can overcome iron deficiency through food such as red meat, leafy vegetables, shrimps, and oysters. Adding vitamin C can also prove helpful too.
To reduce extra iron, adopt healthy strategies such as donate blood, consume calcium and coffee with iron rich diet, avoid iron fortified processed food and have enough copper because copper deficiency can increase iron.
Both deficiency and superfluity are harmful, the key to good health is maintaining balance.
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