June 05, 2013 | 112,179 views
By Dr. Mercola
Iron is essential for human life, as it is a key part of various proteins and enzymes, involved in the transport of oxygen and the regulation of cell growth and differentiation, among many other uses.
One of the most important roles of iron is to provide hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells), a mechanism through which it can bind to oxygen and carry it throughout your tissues, as without proper oxygenation, your cells quickly start dying.
If you have too little iron, you may experience fatigue, decreased immunity or iron-deficiency anemia, which can be serious if left untreated. This is common in children and premenopausal women.
But what many people fail to realize is that too much iron can be equally deadly, and is actually far more common than iron deficiency, thanks to a hereditary disease known as hemochromatosis.
This Health Issue Has Been of Major Importance to Me and My Family
This test saved my dad’s life 20 years ago when I discovered he had a ferritin levelclose to 1000. It was because he has beta-thalassemia. With regular phlebotomies, his iron levels normalized and now the only side effect he has is type 1 diabetes. The high iron levels damaged his pancreatic islet cells and now he has what is called “bronze” diabetes and so requires the use of insulin.
I also inherited this from him so this is a personal issue. Thankfully, I am able to keep my iron levels normal by removing about a quart of blood a year. This is removed not all at once but over a few dozen deposits.
I screened all my patients with ferritin levels and noticed nearly one-fourth of them had elevated levels. So I would strongly encourage you and your family to be screened annually for this, as it is SO MUCH easier to prevent iron overload than it is to treat it.