The Nutrient That Helps You Live Longer — Are You Getting Enough?
(AscendHealthy.com) – Our bodies work hard to put all the nutrients we consume to good use, so it’s essential to give them all the building blocks they need. Each nutrient has a purpose, but some work harder than others at helping us stay at our physical best. Finding just the right balance of one nutrient may improve a person’s lifespan and help them age more gracefully.
A Look at 1.75 Million Lifespans
A group of researchers hoped to find a connection between genes, diet and aging by looking at the lifespans of 1.75 million people. They published their study in Nature Communications, with surprising results. Of all the factors they examined in connection to the way we age — using fatal conditions like heart disease, cancer and dementia as markers — they found getting the right amount of iron was essential in nearly every case.
Too little or too much, and the body is at risk for many age-related diseases. Imbalances in iron intake or absorption could contribute to Parkinson’s, liver disease and age-related immune system decline. With this in mind, researchers believe they may be able to design a drug that can help the body balance iron levels better. If they’re successful, a simple pill may someday help us all age as slowly as possible.
Why Iron Is So Important
Studies have shown we need iron to produce hemoglobin, which we use to transport oxygen through our blood. Without it, our cells would starve, and we wouldn’t be able to function. We store it in our bodies, and it’s readily available through most diets, so most healthy people have no problem getting enough. Pregnant women, strict vegans and people with absorption issues may need supplements to ensure they’re getting enough.
Too much can also be an issue. Anyone who’s neglected a cast iron pan knows how easily iron oxidizes — outside the body, we call it “rust.” The body has no use for oxidized iron. It’s a source of “free radicals,” and one reason antioxidants are such a vital part of the diet. LiveScience explains that free radicals damage cells and DNA, putting us at higher risk of cancer, heart disease and other age-related issues.
How Can You Get Enough Iron?
So how can people make sure they’re getting the right amount of iron? Most of us can get plenty by eating a balanced diet that incorporates plenty of iron-rich foods, such as red meat, spinach and other dark leafy green vegetables, beans, peas, seafood and iron-fortified breads, pastas and cereals.
Another option is supplementation. The recommended daily allowance for men, children and postmenopausal women is 8 milligrams, although premenopausal women should get closer to 18 grams a day. Don’t take a supplement unless a doctor specifically orders it; iron can be easy to overdo.
Iron is one of the most important nutrients we consume, but getting it right is far more complicated than taking in a little extra. Like so many other aspects to life, balance is the key. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your intake; a blood test can tell you if your diet alone is keeping you on track.
~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension
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