Did you know that low iron is actually one of the most common nutrient deficiencies? In fact, one in 10 women may suffer from an iron deficiency, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and many of them begin an ongoing regimen of iron supplements.
But now, research shows that too much iron over a longer duration of time can have adverse health effects, particularly amongst those suffering from heart issues.
Why do people take iron supplements?
Iron is an essential mineral that brings oxygen to the rest of the body. When you have an iron deficiency, it means that your body may not have enough oxygen-rich red blood cells to keep everything in working order. This may be why, for example, you’re winded after only climbing a few stairs when you know you shouldn’t be or have an abnormally fast heartbeat.
Women need roughly 18 milligrams of iron per day to be considered healthy. Iron can be consumed through food and is found in leafy greens like spinach, poultry, beef, beans, nuts, peas, and broccoli.
Because so many don’t reach that 18-milligram threshold, doctors may suggest taking an iron supplement to make up the difference.
How do iron supplements worsen heart failure?
Because many people, especially women, may take an iron supplement over longer stretches of time, scientists have begun looking at the impact of that consumption. In particular, patients dealing with various states of heart disease or heart failure are often given intravenous iron to improve their symptoms.
However, a new animal study from researchers at King’s College London, Osaka Medical College, and Osaka University recently looked at how excess levels of iron could impact heart failure.
They found that while iron is a critical part of bringing oxygen-rich blood around the body, too much iron creates a reaction that actually has the opposite effect on the body. It leads to “a buildup of unstable oxygen molecules that can kill cells,” according to article author Jumpei Ito, PhD. This can, in turn, actually speed up heart failure.
Scientists say that the research is still early and that they’re looking at potential solutions to protect against this side effect so that patients can still get relief from iron supplements. However, more experimentation needs to be done to see if there’s anything promising. They also want to take a closer look at general iron supplement usage over time.
For now, you can continue to work on getting more iron-rich foods in your diet. And if you’re already taking iron supplements, talk to your doctor about your particular health risks and possible options going forward.