When you hear health professionals talk about iron, it’s usually to warn against low levels. Too little iron in your blood can cause all sorts of problems for your body, most commonly anemia.
But did you know that too MUCH iron can be just as big of a problem?
Excess iron has been linked to increased risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s – two age-related diseases. And now, according to a recent study, too much iron may lead to premature aging.
Luckily, there’s a way to even your iron out and make sure you’re getting just the right amount… and I’ll get to that in a moment.
But first – a little more on the latest science.
Researchers at the Buck Institute fed excessive amounts of iron to worms, expecting to see an increase in heavy-metal toxicity.
But that’s not what they found.
Toxicity levels remained normal. Instead, the worms just aged faster. Very fast, in fact – 6-day-old worms looked like 15-day-old worms (and considering the short lifespan of a worm, that’s a huge jump).
Now, I know you’re not a worm. And we’ll need more studies to know whether the same will hold true in humans.
But we already know that too much iron isn’t good for you.
Like other heavy metals, iron tends to accumulate as you age. Once it’s in there, it’s hard for your body to get rid of the stuff.
But how do you know whether you’re getting too much or too little… or how to stay in that Goldilocks “just right” range?
Make sure you know your own levels. Most docs will include a quick blood test in health screenings.
If you want a quick-and-dirty at-home test, check out your tongue in a mirror. If it’s a healthy pink or red, you’re probably fine.
If it’s excessively pale, you may be low in iron and should get tested. (If it’s yellow or white, that’s plaque – but don’t worry about the plaque. Worry about the tongue underneath. Use a tongue scraper to remove plaque if you can’t tell the color of your tongue due to buildup.)
If you’re low in iron, talk with your doc about taking iron supplements. Anemia – the lack of iron – is no good.
If you’ve got enough iron in your system, you should be able to continue getting your fair share through your diet.
Red meat is especially high in the kind of iron that your body can easily access. Leafy green vegetables like spinach are also high in iron – although it’s not as easily processed and absorbed.
In many cases, iron supplements fall under the category of “too much of a good thing,” so you should err on the side of caution. Keep your intake low… and just enjoy a juicy steak with a good side of greens every now and then.