Iron deficiency can cause weight gain due to lower metabolic rate and overall lethargy leading to less physical activity but so too can iron infusions.
Iron like many essential nutrients in the human body has two sides to its story. On the one hand we need optimal levels to decrease potential for disease and dysfunction and on the other hand, too much iron supplemented or infused into our body at one time, can wreak havoc on our DNA and overload our free radical scavenger system.
Iron and Oxidative Stress
Iron deficiency anemia itself causes increased oxidative stress. The production of powerful detoxification and antioxidant proteins likes cytochrome, catalase, and peroxidase are impaired. When we treat iron deficiency anemia by improving iron levels, we are actually increasing the antioxidant capacity of an iron deficient individual’s body.
However, iron is also a transition metal ion with the capacity to cause free radical formation, which can be damaging to DNA, proteins and lipid membranes. This why I recommend a balance of nutrients because bombarding the body with a nutrient such as iron without supportive nutrients can lead to further distress.
One way oxidative damage is measured is by testing for urinary 8-hydroxy-2-deoxyguanonsine (8-OhdG). 8-OHdG is a biomarker that reflects the difference between the damage to DNA and the body’s ability to repair DNA.
Patients with iron deficiency anemia are found to have higher urine 8-OHdG levels. Iron deficiency anemia is a cause of oxidative stress. And if you have been iron deficient I am sure you would concur that you feel all those aging effects of oxidative stress on the body.
When the body is iron deficient there is a cellular war going on to gain control of whatever iron is still available because every cell is clamoring to survive.
Iron Infusions and Weight Gain
Okay, so what does this have to do with gaining weight with iron infusions? Well, like I mentioned earlier, free iron is highly oxidative. And when you receive an iron infusion, you are not getting iron bound to protein like transferrin or ferritin. You are getting a supraphysiologic amount of a highly reactive mineral put directly into your blood. This is a very oxidative experience.
In a 2016 study published in PLOS ONE, it was reported that within 10 minutes at the dose a person would receive via iron infusions, you can trigger DNA damage in endothelial cells, which are the cells that line the inner surface of our blood vessels.
The effects of iron infusions, is similar to the process of people eating an excess of highly processed pseudo foods, fried foods, vegetable oils and sugar and living a sedentary lifestyle.
You are going to gain weight and not the kind of weight you want to gain.
Oxidative stress, DNA damage, and mitochondrial damage are hallmarks of obesity, just as getting an iron infusion promotes these same effects.
Another issue that can cause weight gain is leptin. Leptin is our satiety hormone. A rapid increase in iron can lead to a drop in leptin that is often dramatic. As it goes down our appetite goes up. This is another avenue wherein iron infusions could lead to undesired weight gain and challenges managing appetite.
This is why we want to reserve iron infusions for the worst cases of iron deficiency, where no other methods are working, or in emergency situations where the benefit far outweighs the risk to the patient.
A consistent steady rise in iron is what I would aim for. This way you can experience all the benefits of restored iron levels without the negative DNA damage. For more information on iron infusions, check out this post, Iron Infusions: Helpful or Harmful?
Have you had an iron infusion? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
The Effect of Iron Deficiency Anemia and Different Treatment Methods on DNA Damage: 8-hydroxy-2-deoxyguanosine Level. Buket Esen Ağar, MD, Saadet Akarsu, MD, Süleyman Aydin, PhD. First Published August 25, 2021 Research Article
Low Dose Iron Treatments Induce a DNA Damage Response in Human Endothelial Cells within Minutes. Inês G. Mollet, Dilipkumar Patel, Fatima S. Govani, Adam Giess, Koralia Paschalaki, Manikandan Periyasamy, Elaine C. Lidington, Justin C. Mason, Michael D. Jones, Laurence Game, Simak Ali, Claire L. Shovlin. PLOS ONE, 2016; 11 (2): e0147990 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147990
Adipocyte iron regulates leptin and food intake. Gao Y, Li Z, Gabrielsen JS, Simcox JA, Lee SH, Jones D, Cooksey B, Stoddard G, Cefalu WT, McClain DA. J Clin Invest. 2015 Sep;125(9):3681-91. doi: 10.1172/JCI81860. Epub 2015 Aug 24. PMID: 26301810; PMCID: PMC4588289. DOI: 10.1172/JCI81860