Iron is an essential mineral found in every cell of the human body. About 70% of iron is present in the red blood cells called hemoglobin and in the myoglobin muscle cells. Hemoglobin is responsible for transferring oxygen to every cell in the body, and myoglobin accepts and stores oxygen in the muscles for the healthy functioning of the body.
Additionally, iron is also responsible for the smooth functioning of the gastrointestinal systems, strengthening the immune system, and regulating body temperature. Clearly, we are not exaggerating when we say iron deficiency can make it extremely difficult to live a happy and productive life.
Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies globally, including in the USA. It causes fatigue, tongue inflammation, loss of appetite, extreme weakness, irritability, and lethargy. To counter these effects, doctors prescribe iron supplements to patients based on their required daily allowances.
But do you know that iron supplements can do more harm than good for some people? Having too much iron in the form of serum ferritin in your blood is a risk factor for diabetes. So, iron supplement intake should be carefully monitored in people who are at high risk for diabetes.
Let’s take a deep dive into the different ways iron supplements can negatively affect diabetes patients.
How Iron Affects Insulin Production
Excess iron in the bloodstream leads to the creation of free radicals, which get deposited in the pancreas. These free radicals attack beta cells in the pancreas, resulting in excessive damage and even destruction of these cells. As beta cells are responsible for producing insulin, any damage or loss can hamper insulin production or cause insulin resistance.
Therefore, it is ideal for people with diabetes and other conditions that cause a physiological rise in glucose levels to avoid taking high doses of iron supplements. Even in cases where it is a necessity, consult with your doctor before deciding on a dosage. You may also have to regularly monitor your blood sugar levels to ensure they are under control.
Iron Supplements and Gestational Diabetes
During pregnancy, your body requires more iron for healthy fetal development and other bodily functions. So, doctors often prescribe iron supplements to pregnant people. But, some studies have suggested that increased iron intake during pregnancy can be detrimental and should be carefully regulated before being recommended to pregnant people.
According to the California Institute of Behavioral Neurosciences & Psychology, Fairfield, USA, high levels of ferritin in the blood are a risk factor for gestational diabetes, a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy.
In pregnant people, both too much and too little iron intake can be a cause for concern. So, you need to work closely with your gynecologist and nutritionist to find the right balance of iron in your diet to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Increased Risk of Diabetes in Men
According to another study, men who have excess iron reserves in their blood are more prone to diabetes than men with fewer iron reserves. Hereditary conditions like hemochromatosis and excessive consumption of iron supplements can heighten the risk of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.
High iron levels in the body also result in abdominal obesity and cardiovascular diseases.
At Helping Diabetes USA, we want everyone to make informed health decisions. Always consult with a medical professional about the correct dosage before opting for any form of iron supplement.
If you have questions or concerns about diabetes management, contact us today! We are on a mission to ensure that everyone with diabetes has access to the proper diabetes management education and resources.