Iron is one of the critical nutrients required by our body. This is because it is needed to form haemoglobin which carries oxygen and other essential nutrients to different parts of the body. Lack of iron in the body can cause anaemia, reduced supply of oxygen to tissues and various organs.
Therefore, it is important to maintain adequate iron levels in the body. Iron should never be less or excess as high iron content in the body might damage our organs.
Iron is stored in the liver and ferritin is a protein that stores iron in our body. Therefore, whenever our body needs iron, ferritin releases it. Liver and immune cells have been known to have a greater concentration of ferritin.
In order to check iron levels in the body, the doctor always advises getting the ferritin levels tested which gives the indication of whether iron is lacking or present in excess. Low levels of ferritin are associated with anaemia.
But in this article, we will discuss the effects of serum high ferritin levels.
Usually, high levels of ferritin are observed in a genetic disease called haemochromatosis. In this condition, our body absorbs iron in excess. The normal amount of iron absorption per day is 1 mg but during this genetic disorder, the absorption level rises four times. Some of the other reasons which can cause ferritin levels to rise are iron toxicity due to supplementation, liver disease in which ferritin leaks into the blood due to damaged liver cells, cancer, hyperthyroidism, alcoholism, diabetes and rheumatoid disease.
Serum ferritin concentrations are generally lower in children than in adults. They are less in females as compared to males due to menstruation. The normal level for adults ranges between 15-300 micrograms per litre.
High ferritin levels can damage our pancreas, joints, liver and heart. It increases the incidence of inflammation in the body. If the condition is left untreated it may consequence to -
1. Fatigue or tiredness
2. Weight loss
3. Joints pain
5. Hair fall
6. Elevated blood sugar levels
7. Abdominal cramps
8. Skin hyperpigmentation
9. Reduced fertility
10. Irregular or absence of menstrual cycle
11. Inflammation of liver or pancreas
12. Liver enlargement
13. Cardiac arrhythmia
Elevated ferritin levels in the body adversely affect our immune health making us prone to infections.
Therefore, iron is good for health but only an inadequate amount. Too much or low ferritin levels may prove damaging for us. Diet plays a very important role in maintaining iron levels in the body. In case the ferritin levels are high then the person should avoid consumption of red meat, sugary foods and beverages, reduce the intake of iron-rich foods in the diet and iron supplements. In addition, patients with liver disorders should consume alcohol in moderation or completely avoid it. Consume calcium-rich foods along with iron-containing foods as it has been shown to impair the absorption of both haem and non-haem iron.
• Adams P. (2008). Management of elevated serum ferritin levels. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 4(5), 333–334.