Iron Supplementation: The Health Risks of Excessive Iron Intake

  • Iron is a necessary mineral for body functioning, but too much of it can be hazardous.
  • Iron fortification of food is one way proposed for treating iron deficiency anaemia.
  • high use of fortified meals, or consumption of numerous fortified foods at the same time, might result in high iron intake.

What exactly is Iron Fortification?

  • The process of adding iron to food products to boost their iron content is known as iron fortification.
  • It is accomplished by adding various types of iron, such as iron salts or iron powders, to the food during processing.
  • It is a public health technique used to combat iron insufficiency, particularly in populations with low iron intake.
  • The purpose is to deliver a major amount of the recommended daily iron intake through fortified foods, so helping to prevent and treat iron deficiency anaemia.

Implications for Iron Overload

  • Comorbidities: Iron overload conditions, such as thalassemia, hemochromatosis, and chronic liver disease, have impaired iron excretion mechanisms.
  • Except during bleeding events, iron absorption is balanced by continuous and minimum elimination.
  • Menstrual bleeding: Women can eliminate iron through menstruation, although men are less capable.
  • Increased iron consumption can cause oxidative stress, cellular damage, and reduced mitochondrial function.
  • High serum ferritin levels (an iron storage marker) are linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases such as high fasting serum glucose, high total cholesterol, high triglycerides, and hypertension.
  • Liver damage: Excessive iron can stimulate hepatic stellate cells and produce excessive extracellular matrix deposition in the liver. Prolonged iron excess in the liver can result in fibrosis and cirrhosis.

Challenges and ramifications

  • Only a small percentage of iron taken through fortified meals is absorbed, with the remainder passing through the intestine.
  • Unabsorbed iron can promote gastrointestinal lining inflammation and disturb the colonic microbiota, resulting in abdominal discomfort and gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Nutritional absorption issues: Excessive iron in the gastrointestinal tract can limit absorption of other critical minerals such as zinc and copper, potentially leading to other deficits.

The Way Forward

  • To avoid unsupervised high iron intake among varied populations, implement individualised iron intake solutions rather than obligatory fortification programmes.
  • Ensure rigorous surveillance and detection of iron-related adverse effects.
  • Precision in public health methods is required to avoid iron overload and possibly long-term chronic disorders related with excess iron.
  • To avoid needless excess iron consumption, assess the particular dietary iron needs of different demographic categories.
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