Too much iron in your body reduces life expectancy, new study indicates

A study based on large scale genetic data analyzed the life expectancy across a population with naturally higher levels of mineral iron. This study highlighted the risks of too much iron in the body and was published in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

Mineral iron is a very important metal that the body needs. About 70 percent of the body’s iron is found in the red blood cells in the bloodstream called hemoglobin and in muscle cells called myoglobin. Hemoglobin is essential in the transfer of oxygen in the bloodstream. Iron deficiency causes anemia, the condition where there are not enough blood cells to carry oxygen in your body. However, too much oxygen can also affect your body’s health in the long-term.

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Dr. Gill and Mr. Iyas Daghlas from Harvard Medical School, authors of the published study, used a technique called Mendelian randomization and genetic variation as an identifier to analyze the effects of increased mineral iron on the body, MedicalXpress reports. They referred to the genetic data of almost 49,000 people to find connections between increased iron content and genetic variations.

The researchers specifically identified three points in the genome where single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) affects the iron levels for an individual. Further analysis of the same identifiers in a lifespan-related dataset of over one million people showed that every time there was a one-point increase in the “standard deviation” if iron content above the baseline, the expected lifespan of a that individual reduced by 0.7 years.

“It’s important to put these findings in context. Our analysis is indirect and uses genetic data as a proxy for raised iron levels,” Dr. Gill says. “But the clinical implications warrant further investigation and could be important for long-term health at the population level.”

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This new study is a development on existing work that Dr. Gill has completed. The previous study was regarding the role of iron in hundreds of diseases, again based on a large genetic dataset. There are multiple studies that explore the role of iron levels on the health of the human body, each one proving that there is much we don’t know about how exactly iron levels affect specific aspects of the body.

“These findings should not yet be extrapolated to clinical practice, but they further support the idea that people without an iron deficiency are unlikely to benefit from supplementation, and that it may actually do them harm,” Mr. Iyas Daghlas mentions. “We emphasize that these results should not be applied to patient populations with a compelling reason for iron supplementation, such as patients with symptomatic iron deficiency anemia, or in patients with heart failure.”

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