Does Iron Overload Cause Diabetes and Heart Disease?
Iron plays an essential role in many physiological processes, including oxygen transport and mitochondrial energy production. However, more iron is not necessarily better! The overaccumulation of iron in the body, a condition referred to as iron overload, has been implicated in the development of several chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. Read on to learn why iron overload promotes the development of diabetes and heart disease and how iron reduction strategies can be used to beneficially alter the course of these diseases.
What is iron overload?
Iron overload occurs when excess iron accumulates in the body. The most common cause of iron overload is hereditary hemochromatosis (HH), an autosomal recessive genetic disorder that affects between one in 200 and one in 400 individuals and is caused by mutations in the HFE C282Y and H63D genes. (1) HH is characterized by significantly enhanced intestinal iron absorption and the abnormal accumulation of iron in bodily organs. Excess iron oxidatively damages cells and tissues, essentially “rusting” the body. This generates organ toxicity and promotes chronic disease processes.
However, a negative test result for the C282Y and H63D mutations does not mean a person is “off the hook” for iron overload. In fact, carriers of HFE mutations and people with moderately elevated iron levels also have an increased risk of health complications associated with iron overload. (2) Alarmingly, research indicates that iron overload may be a significant but greatly underappreciated cause of two widely prevalent chronic dis Continue reading