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Chronic Diseases Affected by Iron

Learning About Chronic Disease Affected By Iron

Many chronic diseases are adversely affected by moderate to significant levels of iron overload. Excess iron can accelerate the aging process by catalyzing the production of radical oxygen species (free radicals) that cause harmful oxidative stress leading to cell damage, lipid peroxidation and DNA mutagenesis. This damage process can occur throughout the body and is worsened when the body's natural antioxidant defenses are impaired by diet imbalances that limit its ability to to produce sufficient natural antioxidants like glutathione. Weakened antioxidant defenses are most often caused by over consumption of alcoholic beverages and/or under consumption of fruits, vegetable and nuts. Importantly, the combination of high levels of iron in an environment of inadequate antioxidant defenses can hasten the onset of aging and debilitating chronic diseases.

Severe iron overload can lead to hemochromatosis without the presence of other disease factors. Lesser levels of iron overload, even in individuals whose ferritin and/or transferrin saturation levels range only toward the upper end of normal laboratory ranges, can result in free (or non-transferrin bound) iron that will catalyze the cycling of free radicals resulting in the tissue damage often associated with chronic diseases. This iron-mediated disease process is associated with iron levels well below those observed in hemochromatosis and has been implicated in multiple metabolic disorders, the worsening of many disease conditions, and premature death and disability. A summary of several iron overload affected diseases and conditions follows:

  • Atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Cancer (multiple visceral types)
  • Type 2 diabetes and related microvascular damage leading to end stage kidney disease
  • Osteoporosis and osteopenia
  • Hepatocellular cancinoma with or without cirrhosis of the liver
  • Sarcopenia (muscle wasting)
  • Hepatitis C virus
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
  • Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
  • Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases