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  • Aging And Iron

    November 28, 2010: by Bill Sardi

    Eugene D. Weinberg PhD is emeritus professor in biology at Indiana University and long-time authority on iron overload.  His recent landmark paper, entitled The Hazards Of Iron Loading, published in the November issue of Metallomics (Volume 2, pages 732–740, 2010), provides authoritative evidence for the predominant role of iron in human aging.

    Consider some of the striking facts that Dr. Weinberg presents in his report:

    • Significantly more arterial plaque (atherosclerosis) is observed in animals fed more cholesterol or more iron.  In humans, the risk of dying was modestly raised when either circulating LDL cholesterol or iron were elevated (by 1.40 and 1.57 times respectively).  But when both LDL cholesterol and iron stores are elevated, the risk of death rises 5.21 fold!  That is a huge increase in mortality risk.
    • In a set of 6558 U.S. adults, followed for 20 years, the relative risk for Alzheimer’s disease was +1.35 if only iron was elevated and +1.6 if only total cholesterol was high.  However, if both factors were raised, the risk rose to 3.0.
    • In a group of 25 obese, menstruating females, compared with non-obese controls, serum iron storage numbers (ferritin) were elevated by 56%.  In a different set of 20 menstruating women, serum ferritin values were doubled as compared with 20 non-obese controls.
    • Examine the data comparing 105 elderly males living on the isle of Crete with 139 Dutch men of similar age in the Netherlands. The former had significantly lower iron markers (lower serum levels of iron, ferritin and transferrin iron).  The iron storage number (ferritin) was 67.9 nanograms/milliliter of blood serum in the group of men from Crete compared to 137.0 in the Netherlands group.  Dr. Weinberg writes:  “Not surprisingly, the proportion of men with a history of stroke or cancer was four times lower among men from Crete as compared with those from the Netherlands.”
    Enhanced Mortality Associated With Elevated Transferrin Iron Saturation

    (transferrin is the iron transport protein)

    Years after first transferrin saturation observation Mortality %

    Transferrin saturation less than 55%

    Mortality %

    Transferrin saturation more than 55%

    0 0.o 0.0
    4 3.5 6.0
    8 8.0 16.0
    12 13.0 24.0
    16 20.0 32.0
    20 25.5 34.0
    22 26.5 36.0

    Heme iron found in meat is more highly absorbed than non-hem iron found in plant foods.  But Dr. Weinberg notes that citrus fruits, as healthy as they are advertised, fail to protect against iron loading apparently because of their high content of ascorbic acid which facilitates absorption of non-heme iron in plant foods.  “In contrast, in non-citrus fruits, as well as in tea, coffee and cocoa, numerous polyphenolic compounds bind non-heme iron and strongly limit its absorption,” writes Weinberg.  He adds that the intake of grains that contain IP6 phytate, a strong iron chelator (key-lay-tor), causes suppression of non-heme iron loading.

    Weinberg summarizes by saying that it is becoming apparent that “life was designed to exist at the very interface of iron deficiency and iron sufficiency.” To read the entire report, click here (registration is required for free viewing).  – Copyright 2010 Bill Sardi,  Not for posting on other websites.

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