Iron, as a mineral, is used in every single cell of our body. Other than enabling the red blood cells to deliver oxygen, Iron is a vital part of many enzymes, and also initiates many important biological processes in our system. But what about weight loss? Can iron affect our metabolism, and does a lack of it hinder our hard work to lose the excess weight and become healthier? Read on and the answer might surprise you.
Can Iron cause weight loss?
But first, can a lack in Iron affect our weight loss efforts? The answer is yes. The reason being that iron is a very critical nutrient, mainly because it is important in the synthesis of hemoglobin, which is a metalloprotein that carries oxygen from our lungs to all the tissues in our body. When your system is in a low iron state, it has to work extremely hard to gather enough energy to meet its demands. This can leave us feeling very fatigued, lethargic and irritable. In this state, people can find it extremely difficult to engage in any strenuous physical activity because of which people can experience a weight gain.
That said, iron deficiency can result in weight loss as well, which can be induced by an appetite loss. Additionally, iron deficiency can make it harder for people to eat because it can cause the formation of ulcers around the mouth region and make swallowing difficult.
But even though you eat less, you don’t have that much energy to burn enough calories. So weight loss might still be little to none.
Interesting sidenote: Iron deficiency can give rise to an appetite anomaly called pica, which is a condition where iron deficient individuals crave and eat odd things like dust or sand. If you have noticed a desire for unusual “foods”, it might be a sign of iron deficiency.
Iron and Metabolism: The Hepcidin problem
Even when you eat iron rich foods, you might still experience extreme fatigue associated with iron deficiency. The reason for this could be an impaired iron metabolism. Excess weight causes an increase in a liver hormone called hepcidin which hinders the absorption of iron from our GI tract. This affects our thyroid health, causes fatigue and weight gain.
Hepcidin regulates iron homeostasis. It tells the cells in our digestive tract whether to let iron in or not, and an increased presence of this hormone stops or lowers iron intake, even if there is a high amount of iron coming in through diet.
Any type of Inflammation, whether it be induced by stress, lack of sleep, infection etc, can increase hepcidin levels.
Iron is Indispensable for a Healthy Metabolism
If you want to lose weight, it is very important to keep your iron levels in check.
There are two types of dietary iron that you should know about: Heme iron and Non-heme iron.
Heme iron is contained in foods rich in hemoglobin and myoglobin such as meat, fish and poultry, whereas non-heme iron can be obtained from fruits, vegetables, pulses and legumes.
There are many things that negatively influence iron absorption. These include phytates, calcium, soy, polyphenols and tannins.
There are some ways through which you can make iron more bioavailable for our body. Vitamin C can significantly help with the absorption of non-heme Iron. Meat, poultry and fish can also increase the uptake of non-heme iron, although meat in particular increases the intake of both heme and non heme iron. Research shows that citric acid and some fermented vegetables enhances iron absorption as well.
Are you deficient in Iron?
There are some populations who are at an increased risk for iron deficiency. These include infants, young children, women of childbearing age, pregnant women, adults with internal bleeding, people undergoing kidney dialysis, or those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery. Certain diets can also increase your chances for iron deficiency, especially among those that don’t eat meat and fish. Eating un-nutritious foods can cause a lack as well.
If you are finding it hard to lose weight, find yourself constantly weak and tired, unable to stay focused, feeling cold all the time, easily getting sick, suffering from glossitis, or have a slow performing cognitive health, then it is time to get your iron level checked.
It’s not just for weight loss, from blood production, oxygen transport, respiration, energy metabolism, synthesis of collagen and neurotransmitters to proper immune functioning, optimum iron level is very important to every aspect of your body,
In the comments below, please tell us: How do you keep your iron levels up?