Adequate iron intake is essential for human health but having too little or too much can cause harm.
“We need the right amount of iron in every cell of our body to be healthy and strong, yet iron deficiency remains the most common nutritional deficiency in the Western world,” said Clare Collins, Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) and Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.
At the other end of the scale, iron overload is a serious condition that results from the incorrect uptake, processing and storage of dietary iron within the body.
Iron deficiency often shows up as tiredness or fatigue but excess iron can cause the same symptoms. For this reason, the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society recommends people see a GP for blood tests before taking iron supplements.
When undetected and untreated, iron overload can cause organ and tissue damage potentially resulting in premature death.
“People with iron overload often feel tired all the time, sometimes with aching joints. Excess iron can continue to build up in the liver, the heart and other organs causing serious problems including arthritis and diabetes,” said Prof. John Olynyk,. Head of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Fiona Stanley and Fremantle Hospitals, Western Australia.
“However, if hemochromatosis is detected before damage occurs, it can easily be managed and is no barrier to a normal life.”