Think you need an iron or copper supplement? Think again. New research shows that high iron intakes and high copper levels could lead to health problems in people over fifty.
When you were young, your mother probably told you to eat more spinach to boost your iron levels so you’d grow up to be strong and healthy. When you reached your teen and early adult years, you may have needed extra iron too – especially if you were a female. But once you reach the age of fifty, it’s unlikely you need a high daily intake of iron – and getting too much of it could even be harmful.
High Levels of Iron: Is It a Problem?
New evidence shows that high iron intakes and high copper levels in older people can increase the risk of some chronic diseases such as heart disease and even Alzheimer’s. In an article published in the ACD Chemical Research and Toxicology Journal, the author talks about the importance of people over fifty limiting the amount of iron and copper they get from food and supplements to reduce their risk of health problems later on.
Seniors and people over the age of fifty often take iron supplements in the belief that they’re reducing their risk of iron deficiency anemia. While daily intake of iron is important for building healthy red blood cells, high iron intakes from taking supplements are usually unnecessary and could lead to future health problems.
High Levels of Iron: Why is It Bad?
There’s a growing body of research that suggests that high iron intakes may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease; and chelating agents that remove iron and copper have been show to improve Alzheimer’s symptoms in some patients. Some studies also show that high iron intakes increase the risk of heart disease – although this hasn’t been conclusively proven. Most experts recommend that seniors only get around ten milligrams of iron per day.
High Copper Levels are a Problem Too
Older Americans are less likely to take a copper supplement, but high levels of copper can occur from drinking out of copper containers or from copper leeching into water from copper pipes. Like iron, high copper levels have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but its association with heart disease is less clear.
The Bottom Line?
How can you avoid exposure to high iron and copper levels? If you’re over the age of fifty, don’t take iron or copper supplements unless you’ve been tested and found to have a deficiency. Don’t use copper containers to hold drinks and have your pipes checked to make sure they’re not leaching copper into the water you drink. Watch your meat consumption – especially red meat. Donating blood regularly also helps to reduce iron levels – and you’ll be doing a good deed at the same time.