Iron Is a Double-Edged Mineral

Feb 7, 2011

92019175Are you on iron overload?

Too little can cause anemia—but too much can lead to atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular problems. Unlike other minerals, excess iron is not excreted from the body. Instead, it’s stored in the tissues, accelerating iron overload indefinitely.

When excess iron builds up in the heart, this all-important muscle gets damaged. About 10% of Americans—or over a million people—have a genetic predisposition for iron overload, making them especially vulnerable to this kind of heart trouble.

Menopausal women—as well as men at any age—can also build up excess iron. While lower levels of estrogen during menopause are usually blamed for women’s greater risk for heart disease, I believe iron overload may be the culprit in many cases!

Research shows that females 55 to 65 years of age experience a doubling of ferritin, a protein carrying iron. Some researchers believe that when ferritin iron is released from protein, free radicals are formed that oxidize cholesterol—which clings to artery walls—forming dangerous plaque.

Ferritin increases with inflammation—another underlying risk factor for cardiovascular disease. At least one study has shown that for every 1% increase in ferritin levels, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases by 4%.

Too much iron also accelerates aging by creating oxidative stress that causes cell damage and unwanted DNA changes. It’s no wonder that iron overload has also been linked to arthritis, fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

When Less Really Is More
During menstruation women naturally lose iron, so the levels of ferritin circulating in the blood are kept under control. But without this natural release, iron accumulates and overload can occur.

The results? Abdominal pain, a bronze tint to the skin, fatigue, hair loss, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, lowered immunity, and heart disease are common signals of excess iron. Ask your doctor about a serum ferritin test to determine your iron level.

Once you stop menstruating, avoid iron supplements and moderate your intake of iron-rich foods—red meats and spinach are prime sources. But bright red, purple, and yellow veggies and fruits are known iron chelators, binding with this mineral to help move it out of the body.

Like me, you’ll want to take the Iron-Free Female Multiple that’s especially formulated for women who are no longer menstruating. In addition, this unique supplement doesn’t contain copper, which also contributes to fatigue, hair loss, and skin problems.

Because our thyroid tends to slow as we grow older, this multi contains iodine to balance hormones and help stave off middle-age spread. Iron-Free Female Multiple is also formulated with minerals—like chromium—that help balance blood sugar and combat metabolic syndrome for added heart protection.

Don’t Leave Out the Guys
Men are at risk for iron overload throughout their lifespan—which may be why they tend to have heart attacks at younger ages than women. For this reason, the Male Multiple is another iron-free formula. It’s loaded with chromium, heart-friendly lycopene, and anti-aging reservatrol—to specially target the male heart.

Based on the latest cardiovascular research, the Male Multiple also contains folic acid, B-6, and B-12 for advanced protection against homocysteine—another protein linked to heart disease in males. This broad-spectrum multivitamin and mineral formula even contains saw palmetto for added prostate support.

A controlled iron intake will keep your heart healthy—at any age.

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Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

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  1. Mary

    I ordered the Fat Flush Kit, choose Iron-Free Kit. I also ordered F F Body Protein. I noticed the Protein has 33% Iron. Sodium seems high to me too. It does have your approval so I went ahead and ordered it from Unikey, because I don’t want to do all the home work looking for the right mix. You have done an outstanding job of that. I so love your book. You’re the Best!
    Thanks for all your great work. and Great recipes!


  2. Lena Dotson

    What ferritin level do you recommend for a 51 year old woman? I take thyroid medicine and also iron at the present time. Please respond. Thank you.

  3. Kathleen

    I’m about to order your iron-free, copper-free Woman’s Multiple. But I take other supplements that include minerals and I’m not sure if I’m getting too much. I take a greens powder drink I enjoy which contains 32 mg of iron (from natural food sources) along with a scoop of protein powder which contains 33% of the RDA of both iron and copper. Too much of either? I no longer menstruate.

    On a side note, when a label indicates “from natural food sources,” I assume we ought to be concerned nonetheless. Or is it much safer than a synthetic form?

    Many thanks for your advice.

  4. Joel

    Lena- Different Ferritin tests rely on different methods, so they have different reference ranges. Your doctor should be able to tell you if your levels are elevated after having the test done.

    There are many very healthy foods that contain a good amount of iron, but there are a lot of different factors involved in how well the body absorbs that iron. The only sure-fire way to make sure you’re getting the right amount of iron for your body and not too much is to get tested.

  5. Chris Ruffino

    When my son was a boy (2-3 ) it was determined his cells were noyt absorbing iron. I gave him ferrous sulfate daily. ( perscribed) I fear that it will have a long lasting effect. Today he is 17

  6. Emily Bidwell

    Some studies show that saw palmetto is as effective in treating symptoms as finasteride (Proscar) without side effects, such as loss of libido. Other studies suggest that saw palmetto may actually shrink the size of the prostate gland. Due to the short duration (usually less than 3 months) of these studies, it is not possible to say for sure whether saw palmetto is truly effective for preventing complications of BPH. In fact, a well-conducted study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that saw palmetto was no better than placebo in relieving the signs and symptoms of BPH.:..^`

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  7. Lisa

    I’m so glad to find out more about iron. I know it is so important for health.


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