A couple of weeks ago, I fainted. I was on a flight and it was supremely embarrassing.
Why did I pass out? Regular old life exhaustion, reinforced with a lashing of ‘low iron’.
I’m one of those people who struggles very hard to hold onto iron in my system, so much so that I need to get an infusion of it directly into my veins in order to top up my stocks.
So I was very surprised to read that iron has landed itself on a list as “the next cholesterol”, in terms of the damage it could potentially do to our health.
Part of the problem is that many of the highly processed foods we eat today are fortified with iron, meaning we’re consuming more of it than we realised.
“It is entirely feasible that an average citizen could get awfully close to exceeding the maximum daily iron intake regarded as safe with a single bowl [of cereal] – which is supposed to be a pretty healthy wholegrain breakfast option. And that’s just breakfast,” writes Clayton Dalton, an emergency medicine resident at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
“At the same time that our iron consumption has grown to the borders of safety, we are beginning to understand that elevated iron levels are associated with everything from cancer to heart disease.”
A cancer link – is anything simply healthy any more?!
While this is brand new information to me, apparently, it “has been known since the late 1950s that injecting large doses of iron into lab animals could cause malignant tumours,” Dalton shares.
“It wasn’t until the 1980s that scientists began looking for associations between iron and cancer in humans,” he adds.
Many, many studies have been done since (Dalton recounts them in his article) and clear lines of evidence have emerged, which support the association between iron and cancer.
What’s more, as far back as the 1920s, it was discovered that neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are associated with increased iron deposition in the brain.
And here I was thinking that ordering steak and salad at a restaurant was the healthy option…
Moral of the story? Everything is bad for us in some way, shape or form, so we might as well enjoy ourselves while we can!