Elevated Iron & Ferritin: Recipe for a Living Hell + early grave!

Jan 11, 2016
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Women outlive men by roughly 5 to 6 years. Have you ever wondered why?
Research indicates that one major factor may be iron. While iron is an essential nutrient, it can over-accumulate when we enter adulthood,especially in men. This is because women remove iron from their systems every month through menstruation and men do not. Menstruation continues to protect women against iron overload until menopause, after which they begin to suffer from the same effects found in men.

The Issue with Iron

Iron is an important mineral needed to deliver oxygen throughout the body via hemoglobin in red blood cells; it also aids in the function of at least a hundred different enzymes. Excess iron, on the other hand, steals electrons, causing the body’s organs and tissues to age prematurely. [1] Iron fuels bad bacteria and compromises the ability of phagocytes to kill microorganisms, increasing susceptibility to infections. It is also horded by cancer as a fuel source with which to multiply and spread.

During human development, it is rare to find excess amounts because growing children have a constant need for iron. Once people have reached adulthood, however, the amount of iron required by the body is much less.

As mentioned earlier, women usually have no problem with excess iron, because they typically lose between 20 and 80 milliliters of blood per month, resulting in about a net decrease of 11 to 22 milligrams of iron. Men have no natural way to dispose of excess iron.

Where is all this Iron Coming from?

Iron oxide is “fortified” into cereals and anything made from white flour – breads and pasta being the largest sources. This iron is useful for growing children but not grown-ups and is another reason for adults to cut grain products out of their diet.

Iron Levels

A test called serum ferritin determination is a standard way to check iron levels. As iron accumulates in the body, cells respond by producing more of the protein ferritin. Higher levels of ferritin usually correspond with larger amounts of stored iron.

So-called “normal” ferritin levels are between 15 to 300ng/ml in men, and 15 to 200ng/ml in women. Unfortunately, levels in the mid to upper range of these ranges can increase cardiovascular and other health risks.

When treated, men with ferritin levels above 200ng/mL experienced reductions in inflammatory diseases and a significant age-related improvement in cardiovascular disease outcomes, new cancer diagnoses, and cancer-specific death. [2]

Research has not determined the exact number for an optimal ferritin level, however it is believed to be between 40 to 70ng/ml, with 50ng/ml as a near-perfect target.

It has been determined that levels above 50ng/ml are unnecessary for normal human physiology. [3]

Benefits of Removing Iron

Iron is required for bacterial growth, and arterial inflammation caused by bacteria may be one of the underlying causes of cardiovascular disease. Excess iron also explains the delay in heart attack incidence in women until after menopause.

Studies have shown that healthy males benefit from phlebotomy (bloodletting) by reducing their oxidative stress (fewer free-radicals), an improved lipid profile (improved cholesterol levels), fewer oxidized fatty acids, and improved arterial flexibility.

A group of 1,277 men and postmenopausal women, ranging in age from 43 to 87 and all diagnosed with peripheral arterial disease, was divided into two groups – one of which underwent blood phlebotomy and the other received no treatment (control group).

The treatment group donated one unit of blood every six months for six years. Concluding the study, it was found that individuals aged 43 to 61 who underwent phlebotomy experienced a 54% reduction in death from all causes.

Additionally, the phlebotomy group experienced a 57% reduction in death from non-fatal heart attacks and strokes. [4]

In other studies, carotid atherosclerosis (occlusion of arteries in the neck) was found to be positively associated with blood ferritin levels. [5], [6]


The preceding chart shows incidence of carotid atherosclerosis in a 40 to 59-year-old population. The following chart illustrates how rates of diabetes increases with higher levels of iron in the body. From the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study (ACLS):




Phlebotomy has also been shown to reduce blood glucose, triglyceride and fibrinogen levels, while increasing HDL cholesterol. [7], [8] In animal research, iron reduction by chelation or by dietary restriction reduces arterial plaque lesions. Iron excess was found to damage the kidneys and brain tissue. [9].
A study from Finland of men who donated a single unit of blood within the previous three years found a 30% reduction in cardiovascular risk. [10].

Removing Excess Iron

We are saving the best for last, so be sure to read until the end! The conventional solution to ridding excess iron is donating blood, including therapeutic phlebotomy being another option for those who are not donation candidates. A single unit of blood is equal to 450 milliliters, which is nearly one U.S. Pint (0.9510 to be exact), and an adult male carries roughly 12 units of whole blood, while women carry approximately 10 units. Removing a pint of blood will lower ferritin levels by 50 ng/ml and will keep them below the pre-donation level for up to six months.

Blood donation is ideal because it’s free, your iron levels are checked before the donation (be sure to ask for the number), bloodmobiles generally travel to convenient locations near you, and you’re helping someone in need. Not only that, your local blood bank will probably offer online scheduling so that you’re emailed a reminder every 2, 3, or 6 months. Therapeutic phlebotomies, on the other hand, require a little more time and money but are well worth it. You can have them performed at a number of locations – ask your doctor for recommendations when you see him for a prescription (usually required). The procedure is similar to a blood donation except that your blood will be thrown away.

Donation Process
Prior to the procedure, drink adequate fluids to improve the process of locating a vein. Patients will be asked to recline in a chair or on a bed and their skin will be cleaned. They will then be asked to squeeze their hand when the nurse places the needle into their arm. It takes about 15-30 minutes for a pint of blood to drain; pumping your hand open and closed may help the blood flow better. Upon completion the nurse will pull out the needle and place a bandage over the area; soon after, your blood pressure and pulse will be monitored.

Be sure to drink plenty of fluids after the procedure and get rest. Avoid excess physical exertion for 24-hours after a phlebotomy. While your body’s ability to utilize oxygen will be temporarily reduced, the lost fluid volume is usually replaced within two days and all of the missing hemoglobin is replaced within ten days.

A Novel Way To Reduce Iron

Tauroursodeoxycholic Acid, otherwise known as TUDCA can ameliorate the C282Y hereditary form of iron overload, and/or hemochromatosis [12], [13]. Tauroursocleoicycholic acid or TUDCA is a nontoxic compound approved by the FDA to prevent the toxic overload of protein aggregates that contribute to iron overload. TUDCA is technically not a drug, it is a natural constituent of bile. If you are homozygous for C282Y +/+ this is a must try supplement.  One can find TUDCA here: http://amzn.to/1RcT7WY

Other ways to Reduce Iron

  • Avoid popular multivitamins like Centrum that contain iron (18mg).
  • Take vitamin C away from meals as it increases iron absorption by up to 85%.
  • Certain plant polyphenols, such as green or black tea can reduce iron absorption up to 60% or more, and drinking coffee can reduce iron absorption up to 35%.
  • Taking a combination of lipoic acid and acetyl l-carnitine has been shown to reverse iron-induced oxidative stress. [11] The combination is highly effective in reversing oxidative stress from iron overload.

Tauroursodeoxycholic acid, TUDCA, endoplasmic reticulum, endoplasmic reticulum stress, ER stress, C282Y, C282Y mutation, Hereditary Hemochromatosis, hepcidin, ursodeoxycholic acid, UDCA, homozygous C282Y, phlebotomy, ferritin, iron overload, liver, hoarding iron, blood donation, benefits of blood donation, diabetes, chronic fatigue, memory loss, joint pain, abdominal pain, liver disease, cirrhosis, liver cancer, irregular heart rhythm, heart attack or heart failure, skin color changes, green tea inhibit iron, coffee inhibit iron, neurological disease iron, Black death, Bubonic plaque, Hereditary hemochromatosis, autosomal recessive disease, bacteria Yersinia pestis..

[1]. Ageing Res Rev. 2004 Jul;3(3):303-18
[2]. Circulation, Vol 86, 803-811
[3]. Circulation. 1997;96:3300-3307
[4]. JAMA. 2007;297(6):603-610
[5]. J. Nutr. 140: 812–816, 2010.
[6]. J Vasc Surg. 2010 Jun;51(6):1498-503
[7]. Diabetes 51:1000-1004, 2002
[8]. Metabolism 43:614-620, 1994
[9]. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91(suppl):1461S–7S
[10]. Br Med J 1997; 314: 793-794
[11]. Redox Rep. 2008;13(1):2-10.
[12]. Hepatology. 2008 Jul;48(1):344-5.
[13]. Biochemistry Research International Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 896474, 10 pages
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