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Extra Iron Proven to Cause Diabetes

I was a bit late in reporting on this one as I was out of the country for awhile. But Harvard researchers recently found that women with the greatest iron levels faced nearly triple the risk of developing diabetes. Previous studies have found that excessive iron levels can cause type 2 diabetes among patients with a genetic defect in iron absorption, but it has been unclear whether the same held true for healthy people.

Iron is a catalyst in the formation of hydroxyl free radicals. These are the most dangerous and potent free radicals in the body as it attacks cell membranes, fats, proteins and DNA. Iron is really the anti-antioxidant--it does the exact opposite of an antioxidant.

This is an important issue for me as my dad was diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago due to elevated iron levels. It has been very difficult to control the diabetes despite his great dietary and exercise compliance. This is something you want to pay attention to folks. Nearly all adult men and most postmenopausal women have excess iron levels. I wrote an article on how to diagnose iron overload in December and would encourage you to read it for more information. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to lower your risk. The most important one is to donate your blood regularly, which not only helps you but others as well.

JAMA February 11, 2004 ;291(6):711-7

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