Iron deficiency anemia

Iron Infusions and Weight Gain

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.

References

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

https://doi.org/10.1177/2333794X211041337

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

10 thoughts on “Iron Infusions and Weight Gain

  1. Elizabeth

    I found your article in website after I learned that iron infusions can cause weigh gain. I’ve been roughly the same weight for about the last 5 years. I recently had iron infusions (about a month ago) and I’ve gained almost 10 lbs. I am really upset by this but had no idea that it was from the iron infusions until today. I guess knowing that this is what caused it makes be feel like it was less about my diet and more about the infusions. I just hope to get this off soon as I’m really uncomfortable!

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Bridger

      I second this weight gain i had gastric bypass surgery 16 years ago and was a size 10-12 for a very long time got 1 infusion gained weight dr said there is no way its from infusion. Got second infusion and gained more weight this is so hard after trying to get healthy here i am worse off

      Reply
  2. Lisa

    I gained 20 lbs since last iron infusion in March. Is there a way to detox body after? Its now too high as periods stopped right after. Would giving blood help?

    Reply
  3. Camille

    I just completed six iron infusions given every other week. I’ve gained 20 pounds! Will my weight go back down since I’m done with the infusions?

    Reply
  4. Bria

    I had iron infusions about a year ago. While there have been benefits, I now weigh the most I ever have in my life. Even with improved eating habits my weight has really not decreased which has been troubling. I have been trying to determine what could be the cause as I literally now eat better and healthier than I ever have before. Learning about a surplus of iron leading to weight gain makes sense. Even when my doctor informed me I needed to take more iron pills, I was taking so much iron that it absolutely triggered an increase in appetite. My doctor did not realize the connection but I did. Now, after researching and learning that the infusions cause weight gain as well I am truly disheartened. I know I needed the iron but the weight gain and its effects on my body are just as bad as having the severe iron deficiency. I think I need to try something new or do more research about how my body processes the iron (as there may be a problem there) vs. just taking boat loads of iron when I am depleted. For now I will be researching pepsin and digestive enzymes to see if that will help anything.

    Reply
  5. Ang

    Hi omgoodnesss I’ve been drinking iron once a week for 9 months going on 3 years….. I don’t want no more I’m so chunky and always feel sick it’s not helping me my iron is up with my fair tune keeps going down fast till like a 2

    Reply
  6. Deborah L. Feighner

    This past year I had to have 6 iron infusions, because I have iron deficiency anemia. Because of my many medical issues, the main one having Refactory Epilepsy for 49 years, and I was allergic to the injection, they do a slow drip on me of 90 minutes putting the iron in me. Except the one time the RN forgot to program my machine. The iron was emptied out in my blood stream in less than 10 minutes. I almost died that day. I woke up in the hospital ER and they had just performed a CT scan of my brain, and my abdomen and did a x-ray of my chest. I was unconscious for almost 3 hours!! My hematolagist never mentioned anything gaining weight! I was successful in losing 20 lbs. But after the 6 infusions, I have gained 10 of those pounds back. When they billed my insurance company for the day they messed up,
    they had to use a billing code of: 99285. Which States : “Emergency Departtment visit, problem with significant threat to life or function. This is coded 1-5, five being the worst. I was coded a 5. The Dr’s and RN’s told my husband, “Sometimes things just happen….then laughed”!!

    Reply
  7. Cathy Ortiz

    I had 2 iron infusions 3 years ago that changed my life for the better. Imagine living exhausted half dead and thinking it was normal. About to have 2 more, im down to ferritin of 3.5 so feeling dead again. Never noticed any weight gain I go up and down all the time within 15 pounds and I am plus size so…

    Reply
  8. Esther

    I recently had Venofer infusion, series of 3 treatments, 1 week apart over a 3 week period. Who knew about weight gain?! Dr never mentioned it. My ferritin was 6.5, so I fusion was needed. In some respects I feel better, but I have always struggled in keeping weight off. What can I do to stop this eating??

    Reply

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