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Monday, November 30, 2020

Iron Levels Key to Longevity and Health

A new study revealed that iron levels could be an important factor to slow aging, and more often isn’t better.

Remember when Lawrence Welk pushed Geritol during every dance and orchestra break on his TV show? The audience was led to believe that Geritol (a combination of alcohol, B vitamins and iron) would wash away fatigue and make them happy. It turns out that taking iron supplements is unnecessary unless you have anemia, and taking too much iron has serious consequences, including dangers to the heart. While the makers of Geritol got hit with the largest fine in FTC history, more recent research discloses another way iron levels affect our aging bodies.

Don’t Take Iron with These Medications

Certain drugs bind with iron in the stomach, rendering the drugs less effective or ineffective. Therefore, do not take iron two hours before or after taking these drugs. The following list may be incomplete; check with your doctor if you are taking iron supplements.

  • Antibiotics (Cipro, Penetrex, Zagam, Trovan, Raxar, and tetracyline antibiotics)
  • Biophosonates (Fosomax, Didronel, Actonel, Skelid)
  • Levodopa
  • Levothyroxine
  • Methyldopa (Aldomet)
  • Mycophenolate Mofetil (CellCept)
  • Penicillamine (Cuprimine, Depen)

Cast Iron Cookware Adds Iron

Cooking in a cast iron skillet or pot can add substantial amounts of iron to food. Acidic foods that are high in moisture, such as applesauce and spaghetti sauce, absorb the most iron. One recent study found that the iron level in spaghetti sauce was nearly ten times higher after being cooked in a cast iron pot. A longer cooking time, stirring often, and a newer iron skillet or pot all increase iron levels more with any food. 

Scientists Find Link Between Iron and Aging

A recent study, which looked at genetic information obtained from more than a million people, found that maintaining the correct levels of iron in blood could be the answer to healthier aging and a longer life. A research team of international scientists based at the University of Edinburgh and the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Germany examined a trio of measures linked to biological aging: lifespan (length of life), health span (years of disease-free life) and longevity (living a very long life). 

“We are very excited by these findings as they strongly suggest that high levels of iron in the blood reduces our healthy years of life, and keeping these levels in check could prevent age-related damage,” commented research lead Paul Timmers, Ph.D., from the Usher Institute at the University of Edinburgh. “We speculate that our findings on iron metabolism might also start to explain why very high levels of iron-rich red meat in the diet has been linked to age-related conditions such as heart disease.”

Iron and Genes

The results of the study pointed to three traits that were linked by genes. “Genetic correlations between publicly available health span, parental lifespan, and longevity reveal these traits share 50% or more of their underlying genetics,” the scientists said. “Ten regions are of particular interest as they associate with all three aging traits and are, as such, likely candidates to capture intrinsic aging processes, rather than extrinsic sources of aging.”

When they looked more closely, researchers discovered that gene sets linked to iron were overrepresented in all three measures of aging. They used a statistical method called Mendelian randomization (MR) to find that genes governing the metabolization of iron in the blood are partly in charge of health and longevity. “… In line with the highlighted pathways, we find a causal role for iron levels in healthy life in an MR framework,” the scientists wrote. And although the study had a number of limiting factors, the researchers concluded that “… the strong signal for heme (a compound that contains iron) metabolism, in combination with the MR results, suggests the evidence for the involvement of this pathway in human aging is reasonably robust.”

Iron Levels Affect the Body

Diet affects iron levels, and unusually high or low amounts have long been associated with Parkinson’s disease, liver disease and the ability to fight off infection. “Heme synthesis declines with age and its deficiency leads to iron accumulation, oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction,” the researchers further noted. “In turn, iron accumulation helps pathogens to sustain an infection, which is in line with the known increase in infection susceptibility with age. In the brain, abnormal iron homeostasis is commonly seen in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.” In fact, other research has found a relationship between iron accumulation and early death, liver disease, osteoarthritis and systemic inflammation. 

One hope is that the study will lead to development of a drug that will improve iron metabolism by mimicking desirable genetic control to overcome certain effects of aging. Therapeutic targets that can reduce the burden of age-related diseases, extend the healthy years of life, and increase the chances of becoming long lived without long periods of morbidity,” the scientists concluded.

Click below for the other articles in the November 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors