Older cells have 10 times more iron in them than younger cells. Why does that matter? Because high iron levels hijack your fat-burning machinery. Here’s how to free your metabolism.
Judging from most headlines, iron deficiency is worryingly common in women-and these shortfalls are behind our plummeting energy levels and a host of other troublesome symptoms. But according to integrative physician and weight-loss expert Fred Pescatore, most of us are fat more likely to be struggling with warning sings of excess iron, ranging from weight gain to fatigue to join pain. “Iron overload is much more prevalent, and it can be even more harmful to your body than iron deficiency.”
Iron levels have doubled in the American population over the past 40 years, according to recent research. Part of the problem is that 95 percent of the flour sold in the United States is enriched with iron. As our consumption of processed carbs containing this fortified flour has increased, so have our iron levels. Add in the surging popularity of cast-iron cooking (sales of the cookware have doubled in the past 8 years), and it’s easy to see how iron overload has reached epidemic levels.
Aging just compounds the problem, leaving women born before 1978 most at risk. The reason: We naturally accumulate iron in our cells as we get older, One study found that older cells have 10 times as mush iron as younger cells. And during menopause, iron levels build up even more as the body stops purging iron (via menstruation) each month.
High iron levels set up a vicious cycle of weight gain and fatigue. Though iron plays a key role in activating fat burning within the body’s cellular energy engines (called mitochondria), too much of the mineral actually damages these energy engines. Excess iron acts as a catalyst and transforms hydrogen peroxide in the body into a compound that decimates mitochondria. As a result, the energy engines are unable to keep metabolism operating at full speed, energy production stalls and fat stores grow.
Complicating matters: Excess iron increases appetite. Scientists, found that subjects on a high-iron diet had 42 percent lower levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin than those on a diet with low to normal iron content-and this led the high-iron group to overeat. Through studies are ongoing, the researchers posit that excess iron blocks fat cells from producing the hunger-dampening hormone, and as a result, satiety signals never reach the brain.
Despite how harmful iron overload can be, it’s possible to quickly reverse the damage and jump-start metabolism. Doctors recommend a two-pronged approach that works to flush excess iron from the body and heal and nourish damaged mitochondria. The first key, is to normalize iron levels by donating blood and making lifestyle tweaks that reduce the amount of iron absorbed from food. In tandem, they recommends increasing intake of healthy fats to revitalize mitochondrial function, spurring cells to burn stored fat fast. This strategy also counteracts iron’s impact on appetite-the healthy fats dial down cravings by 40 percent. The payoff: Women who balance their iron levels lose as many as 6 pounds every week without struggle or deprivation!
As the body heals and stored fat melts away, the benefits multiply. In addition to powering up the mitochondria, lowering iron levels boosts brainpower, super-charges energy and banishes mood swings. Plus, women FIRST spoke to report thicker hair, lower blood pressure and relief from joint pain.
“Iron overload in much more prevalent (than anemia) and can be even more harmful to your body.”
HAVE HIGH IRON LEVELS SABOTAGED YOUR METABOLISM?
If you struggle with very stubborn weight and fatigue, plus four or more of the following symptoms, high iron may be to blame. Ask your doctor for a ferritin blood test to confirm.
- Thinning hair
- Mood swings and low moods
- Joint stiffness, especially in the knees and wrists
- Difficulty focusing
- Abdominal pain unconnected to meals
- Frequent headaches that become more severe over time
- Heart flutters