There was a point in time when it was common to hear statements like “everything in moderation.” Our parents may have said it when we were children. In adulthood, we may here this phrase, or something like it, from our doctor or a health and wellness expert. It’s possible that an adage such as this can miss the mark. Yes, it is good to limit the consumption or performance of things that are not good for our overall wellness. Additionally – and here’s what we miss – we should also be mindful of the consumption or performance of things touted as beneficial. Case in point: the link between iron and macular degeneration.
What Research Has Revealed
Obviously, it is research that leads us to make the bold statement that excessive iron may increase a person’s risk of macular degeneration. The connection between the two has been revealed through multiple research studies; not enough for the FDA to place stricter regulations on iron supplements, but enough that we should take note.
In one study involving lab mice, researchers bred specimen with a predisposition for iron accumulation in the blood. This mimics a rare genetic disorder found in humans. When research mice were given medication that would bind to iron in the blood, it was observed that retinal disease declined. This study complements findings from another, which discovered a prevalence of iron in retinal tissue obtained from patients with macular degeneration. The absence of this eye disease coincided with normal iron levels in the blood. Furthermore, a study of accidental exposure, in which iron entered the eye directly, found that retinal disease occurred shortly after introduction.
Should we Fear Iron?
These findings indicate that excessive iron could be a factor in the development of macular degeneration. The importance of such data is that it allows us to gain control over risk factors that we can manage, thus mitigating those we cannot. A large amount of the iron that is absorbed into the bloodstream occurs through the intestine and is related to the consumption of red meat. An alternate way to obtain iron but in lower bioavailable amounts is to consume green leafy vegetables like spinach.
The Bottom Line
There are instances in which doctor’s orders include increasing iron intake in one way or another. If you’re taking iron, talk with your doctor about research related to retinal disease like macular degeneration. Also, maintain routine eye exams that track your eye health from year to year. We would be happy to see you in our Ocala office. Call (352) 237-8400 to arrange a visit.