The Relationship Between Iron and Diabetes Mellitus

An iron deficiency is a medical condition that can lead to various serious complications. Generally, people do not pay attention to the iron levels in their body because they do not know when and how an iron deficiency occurs. Iron is also commonly linked to diabetes, but before such a connection is explored, let us first understand what iron does for the body.

Iron is considered to be one of those minerals that are most abundant on this planet. Among humans, iron is very much needed by certain types of proteins and enzymes that are involved in the task of carrying oxygen to the cells, which then utilize it for the regulation of normal cell growth. About two-thirds of the iron found in the human body can be found in the hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a type of protein present in red blood cells. The hemoglobin’s task is to deliver oxygen to the tissues. The other one-third of the iron in the human body is in the myoglobin. Myoglobin, on the other hand, is a kind of protein that not only brings oxygen to specific muscle tissues, but also stores excess iron content to be utilized by the body in the future. The two forms of iron are heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is commonly found in foods derived from animals such as fish, red meat and poultry. On the other hand, non-heme iron is abundant in foods that come from plants such as beans, lentils, spinach, and molasses. Consuming foods that have high levels of vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, can help people absorb non-heme iron better, while tannins, phytates and calcium do inhibit this process.

Now, with regard to the link between diabetes and iron, researchers have found that women who take in excessive amounts of heme iron have heightened risks of getting type 2 diabetes, and the likelihood of them getting the disease shoots up to 28 percent when they consume too much of this mineral. The study involved approximately 85,000 women who are middle-aged. The research was a longitudinal study and included data collected over a 20-year period. A similar study conducted in the year 2004 also had the same results. More women who had higher iron deposits in the body tended to develop type 2 diabetes than those who did not. In this experiment, 33,000 healthy women were involved. But why is this so when iron is supposedly needed by the body in order to function normally? Experts explained that the idea seems to be that higher iron levels may actually result in damaged muscle tissue. The damage in the tissues result in the decreased ability of the body to transfer sugar from the blood in to the cells, and this was also proven to interfere with healthy insulin production.

However, despite such results, researchers do not outright recommend that those who have type 2 diabetes should significantly cut back on their intake of foods high in heme iron. The trick here is to stick to moderate portions of such kinds of food as much as possible.

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