Iron overload still too high

It never ceases to amaze me how the dangers of iron overload continue to pose all kinds of hazards to all kinds of people. And physicians are observing more problems all the time.

Those who understand human patho-physiology have long been concerned about the effects of iron overload. Especially in the liver, kidneys, and spleen. Now, a new study out of London found that iron overload is alarmingly common in patients with a medical condition known as thalassemia.

Thalassemia is a genetic blood disorder that causes anemia and can lead to heart failure, as well as liver problems and increased risk of infections. But excess iron can speed up some of those problems—particularly heart failure.

People with thalassemia generally have to undergo regular blood transfusions. Which helps replace the routine destruction of red blood cells and control some of the symptoms. They also often undergo chelation therapy specifically to remove excess iron from their systems. (Chelation  therapy  is used to remove toxic heavy metals from the blood. Which serves to point out that iron is another toxic heavy metal. At least when it’s present in any excess beyond  what’s safely bound within the red blood cells. When excess iron is present in the blood—outside the red blood cells—it is like a loose cannon to our cells.)

But despite chelation therapy, researchers found that nearly half of thalassemia patients still have too much iron in their hearts. Demonstrating, once again, that it is a lot easier—and safer—to correct an iron deficiency than it is to get rid of excess iron that is poisoning the body and critical organs.

Back in the 1980s and 1990’s, I worked with Nobel laureate Baruch Blumberg to research the effects of iron overload on increased cancer risk. We eventually managed to get our study funded and published in the prestigious  New England Journal of Medicine, despite obstruction by the National Cancer Institute in getting access to the publicly-funded study data. And then attacks by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) once we finally were able publish our findings. (See the report Classified Cancer Answers, which you received when you subscribed to Insiders’ Cures for more on this story.)

Unfortunately, more than two decades later, it looks like iron overload is still a prevalent problem. Causing even more health hazards than we first realized. And doctors are finding more all the time. Yet the CDC is still trying to muzzle efforts to warn people that iron overload can be a bigger and more serious medical problem than iron deficiency (not to mention one that is much more difficult to correct).

To be clear, most women and nearly all men do not need supplemental iron. In fact, you’re likely much better off without it.