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Iron

Iron is a mineral that is essential for growth and development. It’s also vital in the production of hemoglobin, a protein in your blood that transports oxygen from the respiratory system to other parts of your body, and myoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to myocytes (muscle cells) of your heart and skeletal muscle. Your body needs adequate amounts of iron to function at optimal levels. Low iron levels can lead to iron deficiency anemia which can cause unpleasant symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, pale skin, brittle nails, and poor appetite. To prevent this condition and improve your overall health, you can load up on iron by taking its tablet, capsule, and liquid form.

Overall Health Benefits of Iron

  • Treats diabetes and reduces blood sugar levels [1-6]
  • Lowers blood pressure [7-11]
  • Boosts fertility and improves sexual health [12-15]
  • Speeds up wound healing [16-18]
  • Lowers risk for stroke [19-24]
  • Improves kidney function and treats chronic kidney disease (CKD) [25-30]
  • Lowers risk of cardiovascular disease [31-36]
  • Boosts cognitive health [37-41]
  • Improves sleep quality [42-48]
  • Wards off depression and improves mood [49-57]

How Iron Works

Iron helps to preserve a wide array of vital functions in your body, including gastrointestinal processes, temperature regulation, increasing energy levels, immune functions, and cognitive processes. By transporting oxygen and other essential minerals to vital organs such as the brain and heart, it helps improve cognitive and cardiovascular health.

Proven Health Benefits of Iron

Treats Diabetes and Reduces Blood Sugar Levels

An overwhelming body of clinical evidence supports the benefits of iron on diabetes risk and symptoms, and blood sugar levels:

  1. A study found that iron is important in the regulation of blood sugar metabolism in most tissues. [1]
  2. In healthy individuals and in patients with type 2 diabetes, iron was found to be valuable in treating diabetes complications. [2]
  3. In a mouse model of iron overload, treatment with iron reduced kidney injury associated with diabetes (diabetic nephropathy). [3]
  4. In diabetic patients, it was found that iron deficiency can impair glucose homeostasis (blood sugar balance). [4]
  5. A study found that iron deficiency was associated with the development of gestational diabetes caused by stress- adaptive disorder. [5]
  6. In diabetic individuals, iron deficiency anemia was found to be associated with elevated hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c), a measure of blood sugar. [6]

Lowers Blood Pressure

Evidence suggests that iron can also benefit people with hypertension associated with different diseases:

  1. A study found that iron has a possible role in the prevention and control of adverse blood pressure levels. [7]
  2. In Chinese adults, low levels of iron were associated with higher incidence of hypertension. [8]
  3. In young children and adult women, treatment of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia improved cognitive, motoric, and behavioral development. [9]
  4. In iron-deficient subjects, an increase in the prevalence of pulmonary hypertension was found. [10]
  5. In healthy individuals, iron decreased both diastolic and systolic blood pressure by increasing hemoglobin levels. [11]

Boosts Fertility and Improves Sexual Health

Studies also found that iron supplementation can help improve sexual function:

  1. In women with iron deficiency anemia, treatment with iron improved sexual function and quality of life [12]
  2. A study in women showed that iron deficiency anemia was associated with decreased sexual function and satisfaction. [13]
  3. A study found that low iron levels in middle-aged women were associated with sexual dysfunction. [14]
  4. A study also found that iron deficiency in men was associated with low sperm count. [15]

Speeds Up Wound Healing

Iron can also accelerate the body’s regenerative process, according to studies:

  1. A study found that application of iron can benefit subjects with delayed wound healing. [16]
  2. A study also found that iron plays an integral role in skin homeostasis and repair. [17]
  3. A study reported that iron promotes the migration of cells necessary for wound healing at the site of injury. [18]

Lowers Risk for Stroke

Studies suggest that iron can protect against stroke:

  1. In subjects with neuropathology associated traumatic brain injury, iron reduced the risk of developing neurodegenerative disease. [19]
  2. In a mouse model of ischemic stroke, iron administration improved stroke outcome. [20]
  3. In patients with iron-deficiency anemia, an increased risk of blood clot formation in the brain was found. [21-23]
  4. In patients treated with mechanical thrombectomy, a surgical procedure used to remove blood clots from the blood vessels, researchers found that moderate to severe anemia was associated with poor functional outcome in acute stroke. [24]

Improves Kidney Function and Treats Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Several lines of evidence also found that iron can help improve kidney function and protect against kidney disease:

  1. In pre-dialysis patients, an association between poor kidney function and low iron levels was found. [25]
  2. A study showed that iron in combination with erythropoiesis-stimulating agents can help treat symptoms of chronic kidney disease [26]
  3. A study found that low iron levels were associated with increased risk of kidney disease. [27]
  4. A study reported that parenteral iron supplementation was associated with better CKD outcomes. [28]
  5. In patients with non-dialysis-dependent CKD, treatment with iron demonstrated improvements in hemoglobin levels and iron parameters with good tolerability. [29-30]

Lowers Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

There are also studies supporting the benefits of iron supplementation on cardiovascular disease risk and outcome:

  1. In patients with type diabetes mellitus, low iron status was associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. [31]
  2. A study found that iron deficiency was associated with increased risk of atherosclerosis (plaque formation inside heart arteries) and coronary artery disease. [32]
  3. A study also found that extreme conditions of iron deficiency can significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. [33]
  4. In patients with heart failure, it was found that the prevalence of iron deficiency increases with the severity of the disease. [34-36]

Boosts Cognitive Health

Studies reported that iron supplementation is essential for cognitive health:

  1. In children with poor socioemotional, researchers found that iron deficiency anemia has detrimental effects on cognitive function. [37]
  2. In patients with iron deficiency anemia, iron supplementation improved attention span, intelligence, and sensory perception functions. [38]
  3. In women of reproductive age, iron treatment normalized cognitive function. [39]
  4. In adolescents and women, iron supplementation improved attention, concentration and IQ. [40]
  5. In anemic primary school children, iron treatment improved cognitive performance. [41]

Improves Sleep Quality

There’s also strong scientific evidence supporting the benefits of iron on sleep quantity and quality:

  1. A study found that iron deficiency anemia can affect sleep quality irrespective of psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety. [42]
  2. In patients with iron deficiency anemia, researchers found a strong link between impaired sleep quality and low iron levels. [43-48]

Wards off Depression and Improves Mood

For people with low mood, iron supplementation can help increase energy levels through its antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects:

  1. A study reported that iron can help improve mood by enhancing energy metabolism and balancing the levels of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters). [49]
  2. Studies also show that iron deficiency was associated with various mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and psychiatric disorders. [50-55]
  3. In children, early iron supplementation was associated with improvements in socio-emotional, motor, cognitive, and physiological functioning. [56]
  4. In non-anemic menstruating women, iron supplementation improved mood by decreasing fatigue and anxiety. [57]

References:

  1. Simcox JA, McClain DA. Iron and diabetes risk. Cell Metab. 2013;17(3):329-341. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2013.02.007.
  2. Fernández-Real JM, López-Bermejo A, Ricart W. Cross-talk between iron metabolism and diabetes. Diabetes. 2002;51(8):2348-2354. doi:10.2337/diabetes.51.8.2348.
  3. Chaudhary K, Chilakala A, Ananth S, et al. Renal iron accelerates the progression of diabetic nephropathy in the HFE gene knockout mouse model of iron overload. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2019;317(2):F512-F517. doi:10.1152/ajprenal.00184.2019.
  4. Soliman AT, De Sanctis V, Yassin M, Soliman N. Iron deficiency anemia and glucose metabolism. Acta Biomed. 2017;88(1):112-118. Published 2017 Apr 28. doi:10.23750/abm.v88i1.6049.
  5. Feng Y, Feng Q, Lv Y, Song X, Qu H, Chen Y. The relationship between iron metabolism, stress hormones, and insulin resistance in gestational diabetes mellitus. Nutr Diabetes. 2020;10(1):17.
  6. Christy AL, Manjrekar PA, Babu RP, Hegde A, Rukmini MS. Influence of iron deficiency anemia on hemoglobin A1c levels in diabetic individuals with controlled plasma glucose levels. Iran Biomed J. 2014;18(2):88-93. doi:10.6091/ibj.1257.2014.
  7. Tzoulaki I, Brown IJ, Chan Q, et al. Relation of iron and red meat intake to blood pressure: cross sectional epidemiological study. BMJ. 2008;337:a258. Published 2008 Jul 15. doi:10.1136/bmj.a258.
  8. Zhu Y, Chen G, Bo Y, Liu Y. Markers of iron status, blood pressure and incident hypertension among Chinese adults. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2019;29(8):830-836. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2019.04.012
  9. Domellöf M, Thorsdottir I, Thorstensen K. Health effects of different dietary iron intakes: a systematic literature review for the 5th Nordic Nutrition Recommendations. Food Nutr Res. 2013;57:10.3402/fnr.v57i0.21667. Published 2013 Jul 12. doi:10.3402/fnr.v57i0.21667
  10. Jankowich M, Elston B, Evans SK, Wu WC, Choudhary G. Relationship of Iron Deficiency and Serum Ferritin Levels with Pulmonary Hypertension: The Jackson Heart Study. PLoS One. 2016;11(12):e0167987. Published 2016 Dec 14. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0167987.
  11. Atsma F, Veldhuizen I, de Kort W, van Kraaij M, Pasker-de Jong P, Deinum J. Hemoglobin level is positively associated with blood pressure in a large cohort of healthy individuals. Hypertension. 2012;60(4):936-941. doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.112.193565.
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  13. Nikzad Z, Iravani M, Abedi P, Shahbazian N, Saki A. The relationship between iron deficiency anemia and sexual function and satisfaction among reproductive-aged Iranian women. PLoS One. 2018;13(12):e0208485. Published 2018 Dec 6. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0208485.
  14. Hartmann CJ, Sutter B, Fehr M, Stute P. Impact of body iron store on sexual function: a comprehensive review and pilot cohort study in midlife women. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2019;300(2):469-480. doi:10.1007/s00404-019-05206-9.
  15. Tvrda E, Peer R, Sikka SC, Agarwal A. Iron and copper in male reproduction: a double-edged sword. J Assist Reprod Genet. 2015;32(1):3-16. doi:10.1007/s10815-014-0344-7.
  16. Wright JA, Richards T, Srai SK. The role of iron in the skin and cutaneous wound healing. Front Pharmacol. 2014;5:156. Published 2014 Jul 10. doi:10.3389/fphar.2014.00156.
  17. Recalcati S, Gammella E, Buratti P, et al. Macrophage ferroportin is essential for stromal cell proliferation in wound healing. Haematologica. 2019;104(1):47-58. doi:10.3324/haematol.2018.197517.
  18. Wilkinson HN, Roberts ER, Stafford AR, et al. Tissue Iron Promotes Wound Repair via M2 Macrophage Polarization and the Chemokine (C-C Motif) Ligands 17 and 22. Am J Pathol. 2019;189(11):2196-2208. doi:10.1016/j.ajpath.2019.07.015.
  19. Daglas M, Adlard PA. The Involvement of Iron in Traumatic Brain Injury and Neurodegenerative Disease. Front Neurosci. 2018;12:981. Published 2018 Dec 20. doi:10.3389/fnins.2018.00981.
  20. Tuo QZ, Lei P, Jackman KA, et al. Tau-mediated iron export prevents ferroptotic damage after ischemic stroke. Mol Psychiatry. 2017;22(11):1520-1530. doi:10.1038/mp.2017.171.
  21. Scoditti U, Colonna F, Ludovico L, Trabattoni G. Mild thrombocytosis secondary to iron-deficiency anemia and stroke. Riv Neurol. 1990;60(4):146-147.
  22. Sukdev M, Sweety K, Dhar M, Panda PK. Rare cause of stroke in young: Iron deficiency anemia and diabetic ketoacidosis. J Family Med Prim Care. 2019;8(5):1775-1777. doi:10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_187_19.
  23. Tang X, Fang M, Cheng R, et al. Iron-Deficiency and Estrogen Are Associated With Ischemic Stroke by Up-Regulating Transferrin to Induce Hypercoagulability. Circ Res. 2020;127(5):651-663. doi:10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.119.316453.
  24. Akpinar CK, Gurkas E, Aytac E. Moderate to Severe Anemia Is Associated with Poor Functional Outcome in Acute Stroke Patients Treated with Mechanical Thrombectomy. Interv Neurol. 2018;7(1-2):12-18. doi:10.1159/000480642.
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