Watch Out for Iron Overload

Janet and I went to the Ancestral Health Symposium 2012 in August. Half of the sessions were devoted to the most important issue in nutrition today: whether one should eat minuscule amounts of carbohydrates, or whether one should eat no carbohydrates. Really. They got quite into it in the panels.

There was one session that saved me from diabetes cancer in my heart liver bones, though. Chris Kresser gave a talk about Iron Behaving Badly, wherein he warns against oft-undetected high levels of iron from either hemachromatosis or eating too much high-iron food (like liver, shellfish, and red meat). Apparently, unless you’re a woman or a Viking warrior who bleeds prolifically, you can easily get overloaded with iron in your blood, which stays there and gives you a hundred diseases years later. He recommended some non-standard iron blood tests which can detect this. I thought, “I guess I should check that out. I have been chomping the beef and tinned baby clams daily.”

Process for testing for iron overload:

  1. Sign up at
  2. Buy the Iron Panel test combo. (I paid $69.)
  3. Try not to spend forever picking other tests to get at the same time.
  4. Make an appointment at your nearest LabCorp. (These are everywhere!)
  5. Don’t eat for twelve hours (I could be wrong about needing this), then longboard down to your appointment.

I was in and out in five minutes, and I got my results the next day. Not before DirectLabs called me, though–they wanted to make sure I saw the Alert on my transferrin saturation. The reference interval is 15-55%, higher than 45% is probably bad, and apparently 79% is quick-call-this-guy-before-he-cancers-out high. Other levels were whack, too–but not the serum iron that comes with normal blood tests. I wouldn’t have noticed with regular testing.

Process for treating iron overload:

  1. Stop doing whatever it was that overloaded in the first place, like eating a tin of clams a day.
  2. Give blood.

I gave blood that week and retested the next week, and my transferrin saturation had dropped to 41%. Phew. I can only give blood every 56 days, though. My baby clam stash is growing dust.

So yeah, if you might be getting too much iron, then test it. I also tested my Vitamin D levels at the same time, which showed that yes, if you expose your Vitamin D pills to light, then they don’t work. I bought a new bottle.

This... this is what you get.

This actually wouldn’t happen.

2 Responses to Watch Out for Iron Overload
  1. Jake
    January 30, 2014 | 10:21 am

    Visceral fat makes you retain too much iron. You will see a dramatic reduction in iron overload if you reduce your visceral fat.

  2. Jake
    January 30, 2014 | 5:04 pm

    Another tip. Drink coffee or green tea right after or during a meal with high iron food. The drinks prevent you from absorbing about 90% of the iron contained in the food.