How to Know If You’re at Risk of Iron Overload and What to Do …

How to Know If You’re at Risk of Iron Overload and What to Do …

December 12, 2019 18 By Bertrand Dibbert


I’m about to tell you something that could be life-changing and it’s about iron. So listen up. Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnpd.com. And you’re watching Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!” And today we’re gonna talk about how to know if you’re predisposed to iron overload and what to do about it. Now I’m not talking about anemia. That’s another topic for another time. It’s a serious topic, but it’s not today’s topic. Today’s topic is iron overload. In its most severe form, this is hemochromatosis, which can cause liver damage and heart damage, and all kinds of really nasty problems. But I’m not even talking about that. What I’m talking about is if you have any predisposition to accumulate too much iron from your food, that could accelerate the risk of premature aging. It could accelerate the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. It could impair your glucose tolerance, make you more likely to get fatty liver; it could make you more likely to get heart disease. It can make you feel like crap right now, and you can feel a lot better if you get the condition under control. So we’re not talking about a disease. We’re just talking about something, that if it applies to you, could be life-changing in what it means for your ability to do really simple things to optimize your health now and forevermore. Let’s start by using 23andme to figure out whether we have a genetic predisposition to absorb too much iron. What you want to do is go to tools and browse raw data. Then you want to take the genes that I put in the description and copy and paste the RS numbers. We’ll look at H63D first, which is the mild genetic problem with iron overload. Copy and paste the RS number. The risk allele is G. I have a GG genotype. There’s about 2 to 3% of the world’s population that have my genotype, and we all have increased risk of iron overload. If you have CC, you’re all set. However, about 30% of you probably have one G there, and that means that your problem isn’t as bad as mine, but it’s still something you should be taking care of. The next thing we can do is look at C282Y, which is the more severe form of this problem. Copy and paste the RS number. If you have GG here, that’s actually a good thing. I don’t have the C282Y mutation, which is the most severe form of this problem. If you have one A, then you have a problem you should be looking at. If you have two, it’s very serious. If you ran your 23andMe through Promethease this is even easier. So you can copy and paste H63D. Type it in and you can see it tells me right away, I have two copies of H63D, which predisposes me to a mild form of hemochromatosis. Similarly you can copy and paste C282Y. You have to be careful because it will pull up things that relate to C282Y and not just C282Y. So you’ll have to scroll down, and it tells me I’m not a C282Y hemochromatosis carrier. Regardless of whether you have any of these genetics, you can’t rule out that you don’t have more minor mutations in genes that are rare, but are not covered by 23andMe. And so it’s really important, in my view, that everyone have a full iron panel at least once in their life. I would even say once per life stage. Because let’s say you’re a woman for example, and you have heavy menstrual flow at one time in your life that protects you against iron overload. You may go through a different period in your life where your menstrual flow stops or changes, and then all the sudden your risk of accumulating iron is different. What’s shown here is the Quest Diagnostics iron panel. The key things that you want to look for are % saturation and ferritin. The % saturation may be called transferrin saturation or it may be called iron saturation. It’s expressed as a percentage, and it’s one of the key important things you want to look for. Ferritin is also important. The ranges that the lab gives you for transferrin saturation and ferritin are both really wide. I would recommend keeping transferrin saturation between 30 and 40%. If it gets a lot higher than 40%, that indicates you have a problem. That should be the primary metric that you’re looking at. Ferritin, if it’s elevated in the context of a high transferrin saturation, gives you an idea of how long the problem’s been going on and how bad it’s become. If you know you have a problem, you probably want to keep your ferritin on the low end of normal, like under 100. But the primary thing you should be paying attention to is the transferrin saturation in my opinion. So how do you manage that? 70 to 80% of your attention should be on donating blood. If you’re not able to donate blood for some reason, then phlebotomy is a substitute. But you’d have to talk to your doctor about that. If you try to manage iron with your diet, then you’re going to wind up giving yourself other nutrient deficiencies, because most of the foods that are rich in iron are also rich in other nutrients. Likewise, if you try using something like IP6, otherwise known as phytate or phytic acid, to chelate iron and prevent its absorption, you’re probably going to cause other problems like zinc deficiency. So it’s always best to focus on donating blood as the way of dealing with iron overload. If you manage your iron levels well with blood donation, you may not have to manage your diet at all. But, if the problem is really bad, you should maybe put 20 to 30% of your attention into your diet. And the things you should focus on are limiting red meat. I’m not saying don’t eat it, but cut it down to what you need to maintain normal iron levels in your testing. And just verify that with testing. When you do eat red meat, add three or four hundred milligrams of calcium, or food that provides that amount of calcium each time you eat the red meat. And that will have, not a huge effect, but maybe cut down the iron absorption by about 20%. A lot of people ask me about liver. I don’t recommend not eating liver if you have iron overload issues. Let’s say that you eat liver once a week. That provides you with an enormous amount of nutrition like vitamin A, vitamin B12, and copper. That’s really meaningful and that protects you against some of the negative effects of iron. That liver is the equivalent of three servings of red meat. If you just care about your nutrition, I would eat the one serving of liver a week and cut out three servings of red meat. Now of course that’s just from a nutritional perspective. You also want to enjoy your food as well, so that has to be something that you consider. If you don’t have iron overload issues, you don’t need to worry about this at all. But about 30% of you are gonna have at least an issue that’s sufficient to be mindful of it. And a small percentage of you are gonna have it as bad as I do, or even worse. And if that’s the case, it’s something you want to know now. Because you could make simple choices now that impact your health in a really positive way for decades to come. All right, I hope you found this useful. Signing off, this is Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnphd.com. You’ve been watching Chris Masterjohn Lite, and I will see you in the next video.