Health benefits of Iron – Health risks of iron overdose

Iron is an essential mineral for the body. It performs a number of vital tasks and also enables different bodily systems to work smoothly. 70% of the iron present in our body is found in hemoglobin and myoglobin where it helps in transporting oxygen from the lungs to all the organs and cells of the body. Some iron is present as components of the different proteins and also a major part of iron can be found in the feritin.

Human body can preserve as much as 25% of iron for future use in case of iron deficiency in diet. This essential mineral is directly related to overall well being and smooth functioning of the body, mind and all its systems. However, while iron is vital for the body, an overdose of the same mineral can be dangerous. This article will take a closer look into the health benefits of iron at the first half and then we will also discuss some of the major health risks related with iron overdose.

Iron plays a major role in hemoglobin formation

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Hemoglobin is the compound in blood that is capable to bind and carry oxygen. The mineral iron plays the most important role in the synthesis of hemoglobin. Lack of hemoglobin directly results into lack of blood in the body which is known as anemia and can be highly dangerous in every way.  Anemia can not only make you weak and lethargic but it can even lead to heart failure. So, for a well functioning body iron is vital.

Promotes brain function

Iron has a primary part to play in the development as well as proper functioning of the brain. Iron is directly related with the oxygen supply to the brain, and a lack of oxygen in the brain can result not only deterioration in brain functioning but also loss of memory and even dementia. The human brain is a highly oxygen demanding system, and lack of oxygen in the blood can even lead to brain stroke. Proper flow of oxygen rich blood to the brain can be helpful to promote cognitive ability and to ward off mental degeneration as well as the risk of various neural diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Promotes muscle strength

Iron also works for strengthening the muscles. This mineral remains present in the tissues and helps in supplying oxygen and nutrients to the muscles which ensure muscle strength. Lack of iron in the body or anemia, also weakens the muscles. Hence for strong muscles having the right amount of iron in the diet is vital.

Maintains body temperature

The body temperature is quite an important factor that affects all the enzymatic as well as metabolic processes of the body. A stable and well regulated body temperature is vital for smooth and balanced functioning of all the internal systems. Iron has an important role in regulating the temperature of the body, maintaining it within an optimal range.

Helps in synthesis of neurotransmitters

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Neurotransmitters are vital for proper working of the brain. Iron is known for its roles in synthesis of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrin which plays a range of function in the body and directly controls mood swings. Hence, proper amount of iron in the body is important for synthesis of these vital neurotransmitters as well.

Boosts the immunity system

Iron is known for its ability to strengthen the immunity system of the body and a healthy immunity system is the key to enjoy a good life. Lack of iron impairs the ability of the body to promote healing and also to fight diseases. It reduces the efficiency of the immunity system to work which invariably affects the immunity and the quality of life. So, for a strong immunity, iron is vital.

Takes part in energy metabolism

Iron is also known for its roles in energy metabolism. The process of converting food into energy follows a critical pathway and iron plays vital roles in the total process. Iron also ensures the supply of the produced energy to every cells of the body.

Having given a brief account about the health benefits of iron or the functions it performs in the body now let us get into the details of the health risks involved with iron overdose.

Health risks of Iron overdose

When you are taking iron from natural sources like the foods and drinks, the risk of an iron overdose might be stated as nil. The risk of iron overdose arises when someone is taking iron supplements to fight iron deficiency in the body. Iron overdose can be dangerous and it can lead to death within days if goes untreated.  Iron overdose is often termed as iron poisoning and can be deadly. The risks of iron overdose include,

Can damage the liver

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Iron overdose can directly harm your liver. It can lead to complete liver failure which can result into shock and trauma. Iron breaks down in the liver and if the amount of iron is extremely high the liver fails to complete the function and instead it is affected severely.  Iron overdose can also be a reason of liver cirrhosis.

May lead to heart failure

Iron poisoning can directly lead to heart failure. Highly increased concentration of iron in blood can make it really difficult for the heart to pump it in the right way, which can lead to sudden heart failure or stroke.

Some of the other common symptoms related to iron overdose include,

  • Blood vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Irritability
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures
  • Low blood pressure
  • Irregular bleeding
  • Jaundice
  • Unnatural blood clotting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Reduced sugar level in the blood

So, while iron is vital for your body, having it more is never the right way to go. If you feel that you are suffering from iron deficiency, which is quite common amongst the Indian women due to their particular genetic makeup, it is important that you talk with your doctor and get your blood hemoglobin level tested before starting with an iron supplement. When you are on the supplement, also make sure to never take more than the prescribed dose of the supplement as that can lead to severe results.