January 23 2019

Is Iron the New Cholesterol?

By Mark Sisson
46 Comments

One thing I’ve realized being in this game for so long is that if you’re convinced that meat truly is deadly, you’re not going to stop looking for reasons why. They’ve tried blaming just about every part of meat over the years, including the protein itself, the saturated fat, the cholesterol, the methionine, the char on BBQ, and even the obscure compounds like TMAO or Neu5gc. The latest component of meat they’ve zeroed in on is iron—the essential mineral responsible for energy production and a host of other vital functions.

The experts’ track record with all the other “evil meat components” has many of my readers skeptical, so they asked me to weigh in on iron.

Iron is an essential mineral, integral in the production of energy and the creation of blood cells. If pregnant women don’t get it, they can’t deliver oxygen and nutrients to their growing babies. If kids don’t get it, they shortchange their mental and physical development. If adults don’t get it, their basic day-to-day physiological function falls apart. Without adequate iron, our antioxidant defenses, our immunity, and our metabolic function all suffer. Hell, most countries even mandate the fortification of refined flour with large amounts of iron to prevent these tragedies.

Iron also has a dark side. A large body of observational evidence links elevated iron levels to diseases and disease states like type 2 diabetesheart diseaseinsulin resistanceinflammation, Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension, fatty liver, hypothyroidism, arthritis, and cancer. You name it, it’s probably linked to elevated iron. And as much as I’d like to, I can’t dismiss these connections as non-causal.

For one, iron is inherently reactionary: The very same proclivity for electron exchange that makes iron so integral in biochemical reactions that address stress and support health means it can also create free radicals that damage DNA, cells, blood lipids, and increase stress and harm health.

Two, there’s a little something called hereditary hemochromatosis.

Hereditary hemochromatosis is a genetic condition increasing a person’s absorption and retention of dietary iron. This has benefits in certain contexts—carriers have a natural resistance to the bubonic plague, as one effect of hemochromatosis is to render white immune cells iron-deficient and thus resistant to the plague which feeds on iron—but it’s mostly negative in today’s relatively plague-free world. Most of the hemochromatosis literature focuses on homozygotes (carriers of two copies of the gene) and specific “iron overload-related diseases,” which include cirrhosis, liver fibrosis, liver cancer, elevated liver enzymes, “physician-diagnosed symptomatic hemochromatosis,” or finger arthritis. Those are bad conditions to have, to be sure, but that’s not even a complete list. Homozygous carriers of the mutation also have greater risks for diabetes, arthritis, fatigue, liver disease, and frailty and muscle loss. They’re more likely to experience neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Even heterozygous carriers (those who carry just one copy of the variant) have an elevated risk of iron overload compared to the general population.

Okay, okay. But couldn’t it be that the hemochromatosis gene is increasing disease risk through another, non-iron route? Perhaps high iron is just a marker of disease, not a cause. After all, most genes are pleiotropic—they have more than one effect.

Probably not. The most reliable treatment for hereditary hemochromatosis is phlebotomy. Literally removing iron from the body by draining blood is the first (and often only necessary) line of defense against hereditary iron overload. And it works really well.

Besides, phlebotomy may also be beneficial in people without clinical iron overload or hemochromatosis. It’s the most effective way to reduce iron stores and tends to increase insulin sensitivity. In insulin resistant men with fatty liver, blood donation normalized insulin sensitivity and liver enzymes. In meat eaters, blood donation reduced ferritin levels to match those of lacto-ovo-vegetarians and improved insulin sensitivity. One study even tested the effect of randomized phlebotomy on cancer incidence. After four and a half years, those subjects placed in the phlebotomy group lived longer, had less cancer, and had lower ferritin levels than the subjects who didn’t donate blood.

I can’t argue with the research, but the idea that a primary component of a food we’ve been eating for millions of years and to which we may even owe much of our brainpower—the iron in meat—still rankles. Is iron truly inherently “bad,” or is there anything about our modern environment that makes it so?

Possible Modern Influences On Iron Levels

Less Bleeding

One factor is that we don’t shed as much blood as before. Most men engage in far fewer bouts of direct violent conflict. Most people have fewer parasites feasting on their blood. And when’s the last time you exchanged blood oaths with anyone? We have fewer opportunities to bleed, in other words. That’s why regular phlebotomy can be such a useful tool for men (and some women) with too much iron in their bodies—it emulates all the bloodletting we used to do in a controlled, safe fashion.

Less Intense Activity

We use iron to generate energy. The more physical activity in which we engage, the more iron we utilize. This is usually couched in warnings for female athletes engaged in intense training, but it can also explain the beneficial effects of exercise in people with iron overload. There are even cases of “mild exercise” causing iron deficiency, so everything that increases energy expenditure—walking, gardening, hiking—will at least subtly reduce iron stores. More activity, less iron sitting around idle getting into trouble.

Too Many Seed Oils

I strongly suspect that the unprecedented dissemination of high-omega-6 seed oils throughout our food systems, our body fat, and our cellular membranes are exacerbating—if not causing—the relationship between excess iron and various diseases. Take the supposedly ironclad (pun intended) relationship between heme iron and colon cancer, which is mediated by iron’s peroxidative alteration of fatty acids in the colon. In animal studies that seek to show this relationship, you can’t get the colon cancer to “take” unless you feed the animal high-PUFA oils along with their heme iron. In one studyfeeding heme iron to rats promoted colon cancer only when fed alongside high-PUFA safflower oil. Feeding MUFA-rich and far more oxidatively-stable olive oil alongside the heme prevented the colon carcinogenesis. In another paper, only mice consuming fish oil-based and safflower oil-based diets exhibited carcinogenic fecal peroxides after eating heme iron; a coconut oil-based group of mice had no negative reaction to heme.

Among a cohort of US nurses, where PUFA intake is around 7% of calories and comes from seed oil, iron intake has moderate links to colon cancer. Among a cohort of Swedish women, where PUFA intake is under 5% of calories with a greater proportion coming from fish, the association is far weaker.

What To Do About All This?

First, men and postmenopausal women should figure out their hemochromatosis status. Both men and women with hereditary hemochromatosis have elevated risks of iron overload-related diseases, but they are much higher for men. (Premenopausal women have a handy built-in mechanism for shedding excess iron—menstruation.) Modern men and older women, with our absence of intestinal parasites and our lower tendency to engage in bloody hand-to-hand fighting, have few opportunities to shed iron. Your doctor will be able to order the test, or you can go through a genetic testing service and look for positive hits on C282Y and H63D.

Do it earlier rather than later. Studies indicate that one of the biggest predictors of whether someone with genetic iron overload develops liver cancer is their age at diagnosis of hemochromatosis. Those who wait risk incurring more damage.

Even if you’re negative for hereditary hemochromatosis, you can still have iron overload. Determine this by asking your doctor for a ferritin test. According to the Mayo Clinic, for men, the ferritin reference range is 24 to 336 ng/ml, and for women, it is 11 to 307. That is a wide range, and levels that your doctor would probably classify as technically normal have been associated with insulin resistance, atherosclerosis, and reduced telomere length (a marker of aging).

From what I can tell, levels approaching 200 ng/ml in men should definitely be classified as “high.” And lower may be even better. In one study, egg-and-dairy-eating vegetarian men had ferritin levels of 35 ng/ml and better insulin sensitivity than meat-eating men with ferritin levels of 72 ng/ml. After donating enough blood to hit 35 ng/ml, the meat eaters insulin sensitivity improved.

Dr. F. S. Facchini has used blood donation to induce “near iron deficiency”—the lowest body iron store that allows normal red blood cell production—in his gout patients, clearing them of gout attacks for as long as they maintained it. His patients at high risk for heart disease also saw major benefits from hitting very low ferritin levels (“to levels commonly seen in premenopausal females”), including increased HDL and lower blood pressure, even if they started with normal ferritin.

What seems safe is to stay on the low end of normal—say, from 50-150 ng/ml—as long as no symptoms of low iron arise.

As for women? Higher levels don’t seem to correlate with the same health issues in women. Lucky.

Now, say you have high iron, whether it’s hereditary hemochromatosis or just high normal ferritin levels….

What Should You Do About High Iron Levels?

Donate Blood

The quickest, safest way that also does the most social good (if you care about that sort of thing) is to donate blood. When you donate blood, your body must upregulate hemoglobin production to replace the lost blood. That requires iron, which is taken from body stores.

Don’t Manage Iron Overload With Diet

By that I mean stuff like:

  • Don’t give up red meat.
  • Don’t stop eating liver every week.
  • Keep eating oysters.
  • Don’t religiously adhere to reverse-kosher (only eating meat in the presence of dairy to inhibit iron absorption).

If you make dietary iron the focal point, you’ll miss out on all the incredible nutrients iron-rich foods like red meat and liver can offer. Besides, you’ll run yourself ragged following even more food restrictive rules that increase the chance of other nutrient deficiencies.

Don’t Manage an Iron Overload That Doesn’t Exist

I’ve seen people go down the rabbit hole of iron obsession without actually confirming they even had too much iron. They started giving blood (even self-administered), trying to reduce iron absorption by pairing dairy and calcium with their iron-rich foods, avoiding iron-rich foods—totally blind. Iron is an important nutrient. Deficiency is real. Anemia is no joke. Get tested before you start messing around with iron.

Follow a Healthy Primal Eating Plan

Whether it’s keto, low-carb, moderate-carb, or even vegetarian, going Primal will mitigate many of the potential effects of high iron by:

  • Avoiding Seed Oils and Excess Omega-6 Fats. Seed oils almost certainly make the “iron overload problem” worse, and may even be responsible for its negative effects and link to various diseases.
  • Including Phytonutrient-rich Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, Teas, and Coffee. Polyphenols both inhibit iron absorption and reduce the oxidative interaction between iron and lipids.

So to sum up, get tested and be aware of the iron issue, but don’t let it rule you. It’s iron overload, not overlord.

Take care, everyone. What do you think of iron? Ever get tested? Ever give blood? See any benefits?

Let me know down below!

Note: This information isn’t intended as and shouldn’t be considered medical advice. Always consult your doctor in the management or treatment of any health issue.

References:

Tamosauskaite J, Atkins JL, Pilling LC, et al. Hereditary Hemochromatosis Associations with Frailty, Sarcopenia and Chronic Pain: Evidence from 200,975 Older UK Biobank Participants. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2019;

Burke W, Imperatore G, Mcdonnell SM, Baron RC, Khoury MJ. Contribution of different HFE genotypes to iron overload disease: a pooled analysis. Genet Med. 2000;2(5):271-7.

Allen KJ, Gurrin LC, Constantine CC, et al. Iron-overload-related disease in HFE hereditary hemochromatosis. N Engl J Med. 2008;358(3):221-30.

Nowak A, Giger RS, Krayenbuehl PA. Higher age at diagnosis of hemochromatosis is the strongest predictor of the occurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma in the Swiss hemochromatosis cohort: A prospective longitudinal observational study. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018;97(42):e12886.

Larsson SC, Rafter J, Holmberg L, Bergkvist L, Wolk A. Red meat consumption and risk of cancers of the proximal colon, distal colon and rectum: the Swedish Mammography Cohort. Int J Cancer. 2005;113(5):829-34.

Liu B, Sun Y, Xu G, et al. Association between Body Iron Status and Leukocyte Telomere Length, a Biomarker of Biological Aging, in a Nationally Representative Sample of US Adults. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2018;

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46 thoughts on “Is Iron the New Cholesterol?”

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  1. Iron and PUFA seem to have a consistent negative species-wide correlation to longevity. Both are pretty easy to manage though. I still eat and enjoy red meat all the time and have low ferritin/iron, without any effects or anemia or anything. I donate blood every two months and drink coffee/tea.

  2. Mark,
    Thank you for your article on HH. I carry the gene but have been managing my iron levels through phlebotomies. I am full Keto, meat and all and have found my iron levels have not been effected by going Keto. Early detection is the key and ongoing monitoring. Bring on the plague!!!

  3. I am a female heterozygous for C282Y. The only way to effectively manage my ferritin (marker for excess iron levels) is to have frequent plebotomies. I have never been able to control it through diet and my levels don’t change with increased red meat intake. I have found (under the care of my hepatologist) that keeping ferritin below 50 and saturation close to 20% via phlebotomy makes me feel my best. Before my diagnosis (age 29) I was exhausted and thought I was anemic – getting rid of the iron increased my energy levels. I am thankful you are covering this as most people do not know if they are a carrier or homozygous for hemochromatosis; it’s a simple blood test and could save your life.

  4. My level is higher than I’d like, 120 when I was tested last year. I take quercetin, curcumin, and milk thistle supplements, which I have read are natural iron chelators. I have not donated blood in years … I should hang my head in shame … then make an appointment to visit the Red Cross and do my civic duty. At my age a little harder for them to find a vein, but not that big of a deal.

    1. HH, I’ve always been the most veinless person anyone has ever seen. I dislike giving blood, even though, as an AB+ (about 4 percent of the population), the blood banks really like to get it. Very few people manage to find a vein without gouging my arms up.

  5. My ferritin level has dropped without me doing anything to make it do so. I am type 2 diabetic. I eat red meat several times a week. I recent blood tests, I have been borderline anemic. Wondering if ferritin is too low.
    Range 11/10/17 5/31/18 1/11/19
    Ferritin 73 50 33

      1. Harry, because of the change you should get checked for occult GI blood loss. It’s a chemical test on stool. Blood loss is usually obvious but not if it’s through the GI tract. You can lose quite a lot that way and never suspect it.

  6. I just checked my 23andme tests — did a search for hemochromatosis — it does test for the two gene variants you mention in your article. So if you have done 23andme, you have those results on hand.

  7. I’d love to see more info on iron levels as they relate to men and women differently. I recently had an iron infusion for low ferretin, not thinking much would change I actually experienced so many positive effects I didn’t even know were coming my way. I’m less cold, no more afternoon fatigue, less hair falling out, no more random palpitations, improved restless leg syndrome and the number one big change is it improved anxiety levels – in fact my anxiety is now gone. The last two are due to a connection between iron and dopamine. I learnt that children with mental health issues are often treated for low ferretin where possible, elevating levels to around 100 showing positive results (would love to see literature on this), for me my ferretin went from 20 to 130 and its changed my life, at 31 I haven’t felt this good in years. Yay iron!

    1. Gosh Emma, I wish my infusion 2 weeks ago had had even half the impact!
      My ferritin hasn’t been above 20 for years but because the reference range was changed from 30-200 to 15-200, regular Doctors don’t even consider it. Back for follow-up bloods today but I doubt it has made any difference as I’ve still been fatigues despite the 100mg/day I’m taking in supplemental iron.

  8. Remember that ferritin is actually a measurable protein bound to iron, so testing a ferritin level is technically an indirect way to measure iron. Why is this important? Another characteristic of ferritin (the protein) is that it is an ACUTE PHASE REACTANT. This means that ferritin levels can fluctuate with illnesses and other inflammatory states in the body that drive up a ferritin value that is not related to an actual iron level fluctuation. Don’t get ferritin checked when you are sick with a cold or other illness.

    1. Thanks Andy!
      I had an iron infusion recently but the blood test before had ferritin higher than it had been for years (36) and my CRP was also elevated – I presumed that the CRP was a recent viral (presumably) infection but now know that this may have impacted the ferritin as well!

  9. Btw, the plague is caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis, not by a vrius.

    1. Melanie, true that the actual “Plague” was bacterial in nature. However, what we call the “Black Death” of that period (I’ve changed the wording in the post to reflect this) doesn’t appear to have been the cause of Yersinia pestis. It was a likely a contributor to the number of deaths at that time, but other research calls into question how it could have spread so far and so quickly for how we know it behaves and is transmitted. A more likely scenario many experts believe is the co-occurrence of the bacterium and a deadly virus given the lightning fast devastation.

  10. Mark, I can’t tell you how timely this post is. All day I’ve been waiting for the lab to call me to schedule my first blood draw because of prolonged high ferritin levels. The range from my lab is 13 – 150. Since 2014 it’s been around 326, and once in October last year it climbed to 522 before coming back down to 352 a month later. I’m 64 and female.

    My iron, iron binding capacity, and percent saturation are all normal.

    The thing is, my doc never picked up on the prolonged high levels. I had to specifically point it out to him repeatedly before he paid attention.

    The doc finally ordered an MRI of my liver to ensure there has been no damage from the high levels. All’s good there, no damage. A little bit of fatty deposit, so the nurse told me to “cut down on fatty foods.” Uh-huh.

    Anyway, my insurance company doesn’t want to pay for a hemochomatosis blood test, so the doc asked if I was OK with just starting regular blood draws, which I am. Not sure how they figure out how much to draw out each time. Maybe there’s a calculation for how much ferritin you have in your blood.

    Thanks so much for this post. It has helped me understand my situation better!

      1. I don’t trust that they won’t sell my data. If the blood draws work, I’ll just do regular donations.

  11. To donate blood in Canada you need to have hemoglobin levels of 130 g/L or higher for men (125 for females).
    With the donation app, I can see my levels for the last 3 years of donations (~5/year). I’ve failed a few times and I am often just above cut-off.
    For the last 6 months I’ve been better at taking iron supplements and it’s been creeping up. Last week it was 154 before donating. If it is that high next time, I might cut back a bit. I want to be able to donate (sucks to make time to go and get turned away), but I don’t want to maintain high levels unnecessarily (not that 154 is that high).

  12. This topic hits close to home for me. Two years ago now, I started experiencing all sorts of weird symptoms….irregular heartbeat, hair loss, weight loss…even though nothing had changed in my diet or lifestyle. The doctors I saw were of no help in diagnosing what was wrong (no surprise to me). I had all sorts of blood tests done, and it turns out that my ferritin level was about 450, which the docs said was “at the high end of normal, but nothing to be alarmed about”. I started doing my own research online, and found out that a ferritin level that high was anything but normal. So I went back to the doc and had them test my serum iron and transferrin saturation, both of which confirmed that I was suffering from iron overload. I never did have the test done for hereditary hemochromatosis, but I knew that I had to get my ferritin leve down to start the recovery process. After my first blood donation, I felt a little better. After the second one, a couple months later, I felt quite a bit better. After the third blood donation, the symptoms all pretty much disappeared. I then had my ferritin level checked again, and it was now below 100. Since then, I have donated blood a couple more times, and my ferriting level is now around 60………..and I feel great. So my message to others (particularly males over age 50 or so) is…………please get your ferritin level checked, as iron overload is a serious condition that can lead to all sorts of other problems, as Mark’s article says. I’m pretty sure that my life was saved by figuring out that I had too much ferriting (stored iron) in my system, and doing something (donating blood) to relieve the problem. The reference ranges that many USA labs use for ferritin are outdated and very, very wrong……….if your ferritin level is over 200 or so, you really need to lower it. And below 100 is even better. Do your own research like I did, don’t believe everything your doctor tells you, especially if what they are offering is not helping you.

  13. Mark – you need to have a medical professional (specifically, a practicing general internist) screen your articles. Usually I look to you for pretty good evidence-based posts, but this was a little wacky. DIETARY iron intake is not always associated with ferritin levels, which is like the body’s iron storage but also an acute phase protein. So high ferritin is not really “iron overload.”

    Some examples: I have patients that eat normal levels of dietary iron, yet they have anemia and low SERUM iron, yet HIGH ferritin. This condition is seen in anemia of chronic inflammation and can result from malignancies, infections, autoimmune diseases, chronic kidney disease, and even diabetes. People with high ferritin through this mechanism should not donate blood, as they are likely anemic.

    I also have patients that have high ferritin during acute illnesses (for eg: hospitalized patients). Again, these sick patients should not be donating blood, and they are not “overloaded” with iron.

    Iron levels in the body are regulated by cytokines, hepcidin, etc. It’s very complicated and we are still learning a lot. Recently, physicians are learning that the more iron you supplement, the less you are able to absorb in your intestines, which is why we now recommend supplementing (only if deficient) with 1 ferrous sulfate 325mg tablet daily or every other day (previously, people suffered with 1 tablet three times a day, with all the side effects that come along with that). More oral iron led to increased hepcidin which led to decreased overall iron absorption from the small intestine. The OPPOSITE of what you’d expect.

    It’s complicated.

    1. So Angela say I’m the average Joe or Joline that feels a little fatigued and can afford to pay for whatever iron-related blood tests are out there and useful that insurance may or may not cover. What tests should I have done?

      1. You should have a doctor evaluate you for depression, anemia, thyroid disease, and check your sleeping patterns before you jump to testing.

        1. Guess my question was not worded well. Was just curious as to what a complete suite of iron tests would involve, you appeared to be a knowledgable source, but I can research it if I care that much, no biggie. 🙂

          1. HealthyHombre, you’d want to have serum iron, transferrin, TIBC, and saturation %, along with ferritin done to get a fairly complete picture of what’s happening with iron in your body. Sometimes doctors will order all of that for an “anemia panel” and sometimes they won’t. I find it useful and much less expensive to simply order my own testing online and go to Labcorp or Quest Diagnostics for the blood draw.

    2. Ferritin can be higher due to systemic inflammation, not just body iron load. For a good indicator of general inflammation I use high sensitivity C-reactive protein aka hsCRP. The hsCRP goes way up with infections, heart attacks, etc. They say anything below 3 is okay, but I try for closer to 1 because of my diabetes. Once hsCRP is down there, I follow what some experts recommend, ferritin below 100, but not below 50. That is my personal target. Some of the commenters below seem to have really low ferritin. Units I am using are ng/ml, that is nanograms per milliliter. Please do not try to just fix the numbers. You need to check out what is going on, like internal bleeding or cancer or multiple other serious problems that may be making you tired. Bring a copy of other test results for you doctor. It can save time and additional testing.

    3. Angela, thanks for your response – and, indeed, the issue is complicated. I’ll be doing a follow-up Dear Mark to cover more angles and detail. As with many markers, hormones and even nutrient levels, trauma and serious illness can affect the numbers (or relationship/proportion of numbers) – often in ways that don’t make “normal” sense. My summary was intended for generally healthy people, certainly not someone in a hospital setting or someone dealing with otherwise acute health issues under the care of a physician. I’ll take up additional points next week, so stay tuned!

    4. Thanks Angela. I should have read the comments before I posted my own. I too found the article seemed to confuse ferritin with iron stores.

      1. You guys keep me on my toes, and I appreciate it. I’m already working on a follow-up post to clarify these and other points. Look for it next Tuesday.

  14. If eating weren’t so complicated, you could have summed it up nicely in a paragraph and stopped there, without having to elaborate. No wonder so many people get lost and confused half way through a package of Oreos.

  15. I am a postmenapausal woman and have had ferritin levels in the mid 200s. I have blood drawn several times a year to bring it under 80. I was surprised to read that iron overload doesn’t cause problems in females. Where is your source for that?

    1. I don’t think this is correct. Women DO have problems when their iron is too high – it just takes longer to manifest because of the monthly blood donation until 50-something (on average). It has wreaked havoc in my family tree, including with my mother, who is being treated with phlebotomy after iron deposits were found on her heart, liver, and pancreas. We all are heterozygous for H36D. My iron saturation and total iron are high, my iron binding capacity is low, but my ferritin is 120 for now so nothing is being done. Unfortunately I can’t donate blood because I lived in Europe from 82-84 and am on a permanent no-fly list (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease risk). I guess I’ll have it monitored until the doctors will take my blood.

  16. Thanks for this article I learned a lot ! When studying links between heavy metals and poor absorption of essential minerals, I found the excess of iron and copper in blood is linked to high levels of toxic metals such as mercury. That’s one of the reasons why a lot of people feel sick when taking multi supplements that have iron or copper. Usually, taking R Lipoic Acid, N Acetyl Cysteine, glass pipe grown Chlorella, and other supplements that remove toxics from the body is helpful, along side nutrition of course.
    Also, if I remember well, vitamin C helps to use iron that is already in the body, that’s why usually taking iron supplements is no use if not taken with C vitamin.
    Hope this helps

  17. ALL manner of pathogens, bacterial, fungal, viral, mycotoxin, etc., MUST HAVE IRON TO FLOURISH & GROW….And where do they find that Iron?!? Largely from the Iron “stored” in our Ferritin! (Oct 17, 2005).

    Said another way, TOO much iron in your body allows viruses, bacteria & fungi to intrude—and make you sick! There is more iron in thr body than can be measured by blood lab. Start donating blood!

  18. Just testing ferritin is not enough!

    Example –
    12/2016 iron panel:
    Iron, total=226 ug/dL (27-159)
    TIBC=317 ug/dL (250-450)
    Iron, Saturation=71% (15-55)
    UIBC=91 ug/dL (131-425)
    Ferritin =112 ng/mL (15-150)

    Actually already started donating blood, August 2016 & October 2016, before 12/8/16 labs.
    I
    Donating about every 56 days ever since, so disappointed serum iron and saturation percentage is still not optima, as of 12/2[/18l.

    12/29/2018::
    Iron 132 ug/dl (Opt=100)
    TIBC 399 (Opt=285)
    Transferrin 330 (Opt=300)
    Sat % 33 (Opt=25-30)
    Ferritin 47 (Opt=~20)

    Too high serum iron and saturation percentage is not good; likewise with ferritin. Need a full panel.

    By the way, June 2018 labs measured ferritin at 31.
    Ferritin can fluctuate with inflammation. Guess who is having an MS exacerbation now (started 12/24/28) but just now had Day 1 of 3 days solu-medro IV? Last flare was early 2024. I really hoped getting iron reduced would avoid a flare. Soooo disappointed

  19. This article dismisses Neu5gc as “obscure”. Anything newly discovered will be “obscure” for awhile. The facts are: Neu5gc is present in red meat and dairy; it is foreign to the human body; when eaten it gets incorporated into human tissue and causes inflammation; there is a correlation between red meat consumption and cancer and heart disease; Neu5gc is found in human cancer tissue. Look into it and make up your own mind.

  20. All flour in the US is fortified with iron. That means extra iron is consumed with every piece of bread, pie, cookie, everything with any flour. Ferritin is the storage form of iron in the body. It appears that the ferritin levels of recent US studies that include ferritin results are much higher than older US studies or to overseas studies.

  21. I have a question on one of your statements:
    “A large body of observational evidence links elevated iron levels to diseases and disease states like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, insulin resistance, inflammation, Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension, fatty liver, hypothyroidism, arthritis, and cancer.”
    My question is, are you talking serum iron, tissue iron stores or serum ferritin (a measure of iron). The reason I ask, is that serum ferritin is an acute phase reactant. It’s a protein-iron complex that is high in inflammatory states, which serum and tissue iron stores may be normal (hemochromatosis excluded). Thanks

  22. I’m glad the Primal community is finally looking at this disorder. I’ve been checking all the sites, since I was diagnosed with heterozygous HH (C282Y & H63D) 4 years ago. I asked for the test because my brother told me he has it. My doc didn’t know anything about it. I went to a hematologist who also hadn’t ever had a patient with it. I did phlebotomy every 2-3 months for 1 year & ended up iron avid (ferritin at 49, but iron sat at 84%). It is a complicated disorder. I’ve read to decrease all saturated fats. Nevertheless, I follow primal diet, but with less red meat & I feel healthy, as a 66 yr old female – much better than I did when younger. When younger eating the SAD, I was always exhausted & felt like crap. BTW, in NYS you have to apply to the HH program to donate blood. This works if you’ve been exposed to anything that prevents blood donation – like exposure to babesiosis or any of the other contraindications for blood donation. They will take your blood then discard it.

  23. Years ago I worked with a woman who had hereditary hemochromatosis. She always seemed healthy enough and had more energy than anyone I’ve ever known. She was supposed to get blood drawn regularly but didn’t do it very often because she hated needles. She said it also made her feel tired. I suspect it was just the normal tiredness that healthy people experience, but she was used to being abnormally energetic.

    I think she might have been okay if she hadn’t been a smoker. She developed cancer that spread and she passed away at age 62. Three of her siblings who also had hemochromatosis had died of cancer, so she was aware of the increased risk. But she couldn’t seem to give up the smokes.

  24. Two more sources of iron you might not realize: if you are drinking well water high in iron and cooking acidic food in cast iron skillet. It all adds up…..

  25. Dear Mark, please reach out to Morley Robbins here: http://www.therootcauseprotocol.com before your next article on iron. He has been actively studying copper:iron metabolism for many years and has a different view of the labs required to determine iron levels. I think you will find his work astonishing and revolutionary. Keep up the good work!

  26. I have one last question on this. You say “Don’t stop eating liver every week.” If you can’t stand the taste of liver, what do you think about taking liver capsules made from grass-fed New Zealand beef every day instead?

  27. I enjoy and appreciate your information; however, it is very difficult to read unless I am on my computer.
    The words are light grey instead of black! The highlighted words are lime green … even worse and even more difficult to read.