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Consuming an excess amount of anything can wreak havoc with your health and can result in several health issues. The same goes for iron. It’s an essential mineral that your body needs for proper immune and respiratory functions, along with boosting energy metabolism. So that simply means you need iron on a daily basis. However, there are some people who deal with iron deficiency due to the low amount of iron consumption. Whereas iron deficiency can lead to anaemia and fatigue, consuming large quantities of it is also not a good idea. Yes, just because iron is important, it doesn’t mean you will eat an excessive amount of it. Because overconsumption of iron can result in certain side effects.
The golden rule of consuming any nutrient is sticking to the right quantity. Hari Lakshmi, consultant dietitian and nutritionist, Motherhood Hospital, Alwarpet, Chennai, spoke to HealthShots about the side effects of having too much iron.
“Iron is an essential part of a healthy diet. It forms a crucial element of haemoglobin which is found in the red blood cells. Haemoglobin levels are extremely important as it determines the supply of oxygen to the cells in our body,” said Lakshmi.
He adds, “Though iron is useful and plays an essential role in many basic body functions, it can be harmful when consumed in high amounts. In fact, the digestive tract tightly regulates the amount of iron absorbed as excess iron absorption can be toxic. The hormone Hepcidin controls iron absorption and is responsible for keeping the stored iron in the body at a balanced level. But it gets out of track when you consume an excessive amount of iron.”
When you take high doses of iron supplements for a long period of time or in a single overdose, iron poisoning occurs. Its symptoms can include nausea, stomachache, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Excess iron accumulated over time in the body can also cause damage to organs like the liver and brain. In that case, immediate medical attention is required.
This is a genetic disorder where the body absorbs too much iron resulting in iron overload. “People with this condition need to be extremely careful about their iron intake as it can have some serious health effects. Iron deposit in the liver can lead to cirrhosis and if it is deposited in the pancreas it can lead to diabetes as well,” said Lakshmi.
If you have this condition, reduce the intake of iron-rich foods and also avoid combining food high in vitamin C with iron-rich items. If left untreated this condition increases the risk of diseases like arthritis, liver issues, cancer, and heart problems.
There are studies that show that excess iron in the body can also make you susceptible to bacterial infections. Therefore, patients who have a high risk of infections should control and regulate their iron intake.
Iron overconsumption doesn’t show symptoms in the initial stage so be careful and consume it in moderation.