The Trouble with Iron
Ready to blow your mind with a whole new set of ideas? Want to live a lot longer and have your brain survive with you? Want to have an organizing principle that explains much of the trouble with modern nutrition, that is a complete curve ball from anything you have ever heard before? Here goes. Please read the next couple of weeks of The News with great attention to the details in this column.
Dr Person Estep is not am MD, he’s the smart kind, a PhD at Harvard Medical School, in Genetics and Health Science. HIs research is into those populations of people whose brain survives into their later years, and why. I’ve just devoured his book, and if you want to preserve your brain, you should too. This is a must read.
Let me start with a few core principles and ideas that he presents. First, the concept of MIND SPAN. I want my brain to survive longer than my body. My LIFE span makes me nervous, if it’s longer than my brain span. That’s Alzheimer’s (AD). Get that? Of course your do. We all do, and right now 50% of are getting it if we have the “good fortune” of living to 85. That’s idea #1.
Concept #2 for us to all know is the idea of Antagonistic Pleitropy. (Wow, if you get this, you can skip medical school.) It’s actually a simple idea. What it means is that your bodies needs change as you age. What was good for you once, becomes bad for you later. Biology works by natural selection, and reproduction is the driving force. If you can’t pass on your genes, they can’t change. So, natural selection works only until you stop reproducing. Nature is not interested in you once the pressure of natural selection is over. Get it? What is good for you before passing on your genes, may be bad for you later. Women have to give iron to their babies. The human body needs iron for it’s blood making. And through most of human history, our guts were filled with tiny worms that made us lose iron. In this mix, men have to make sperm. Trillions of them. But sperm doesn’t involve the losing of iron. Making babies does. Lots of iron. The human species has resulted in a model that generally, in both genders, accumulates iron easily. That’s good for women, while they are making babies. And its good for all of us when we keep losing iron from intestinal parasites. What happens to us after we stop reproducing? Well, nature has no way of repairing or changing that tendency to accumulate iron after our reproductive years. What happens if we keep accumulating iron? What happens when we get good plumbing and sanitation and stop getting pin worm? Our iron leak stops.
What happens, if we decide that our society is across the board iron deficient and we add iron to all of our grains? (Look at your breakfast cereal and see how much iron you are getting. Look at your “fortified bread” and see how much iron you are getting. Consider that the USDA says that we need 18 mg of iron a day, and good science shows that actually you probably need much less, like 4 mg a day, once you hit 50. What’s happened is that in America, we have added abundant iron to our diet, to our baby formula, to our grains, our breakfast cereals, our rice, to our whole food chain. And that may be a big problem.
What if I told you that accumulating ferritin in your pancreas pushes you into diabetes? What if I told you that amyloid plaque in your brain may be a side effect of a desperate attempt to get that toxic iron out of your brain. We’ll get to that in the coming weeks.
For now, think about these two core ideas and please, look at your “fortified” flour on your shelf and read the labels for your source of iron. Think about how red meat provides you lots of iron. And next week, we’ll have more details.
WWW.What will work for me. My mind is being totally turned upside down. I can’t wait to tell you the rest. This is a whole new way of exploring the metabolic problems we face with aging. But for now, stop taking any iron in your diet. STOP. Trust me. Stop. Stop your vitamin pill with iron. Stop your fortified cereal. Get skeptical about red meat. I’ll prove it to you. Or else buy the book. Next week.
- The human body accumulates iron easily, too easily. When is that good, and when is it bad? Answer: It’s good if you are a young female, having lots of babies and with lots of intestinal parasites – like humans were until 100 years ago when we cleaned up our toilets, our guts and stopped having so many babies. It’s bad when you are male, have a clean gut, live longer than 35 years.
- What is this effect called? Answer: Antagonistic Pleiotropy. (Go straight to your third year in medical school.) What’s good for you at one age or circumstance, becomes bad for you later.
- We decided, as a society, that every one should have how many milligrams of iron a day? Answer: 18
- How many milligrams do mature adults, past the age of child bearing need? Answer: Probably around 4. Certainly no more than 8.
- Should I worry about the red color of my ibuprofen pill? Answer: Yes, that is actually oxidized iron. Buy another brand. The ibuprofen is good for your brain. The Iron is not.