A study of more than 1 million people finds an interesting link between iron levels and longevity

A major study published in 2020 found evidence that blood iron levels may play a role in affecting how long you live.

Lifetime studies with large grains of salt are always important, but the research was impressive, covering genetic information from more than 1 million people across three public databases. It also focused on three main steps to aging: longevity, years living without disease (called health), and making it very old age (longevity AKA).

Through the analysis, it was shown that 10 key regions of the genome were associated with these stages of longevity, as gene sets were linked to how the body metabolizes iron.

Simply put, too much iron in the blood seemed to be associated with an increased risk of dying earlier.

“We are delighted with these findings as they strongly recommend that high levels of iron in the blood reduce our healthy years of life, and by monitoring levels. that could prevent age – related damage, “said data analyst Paul Timmers, of the University of Edinburgh, UK.

“We suggest that our decisions on iron metabolism may also begin to explain why very high levels of iron-rich red meat in the diet have been linked to age-related conditions such as heart disease. “

Although correlation does not necessarily imply causation, the researchers used a statistical method called Mendelian randomization to reduce bias and try to find a cause in the data.

As the researchers said, genetics is thought to have about a 10 percent impact on longevity and health, which can make it difficult to select the genes involved from the other factors involved ( such as your smoking or drinking habits). With that in mind, one of the benefits of this new study is its size and scope.

Five of the genetic markers found by the researchers have not previously been identified as important at the genome-wide level. Some, including APOE and FOXO3, have previously been identified as important for the aging process and human health.

“It is clear from the association of age-related diseases and the notorious APOE and FOXO3 loci that we are partially capturing the human aging process,” the researchers wrote in their paper published in July 2020.

While we are still at an early stage of exploring this link with iron metabolism, further down the line we will see the development of drugs designed to reduce blood iron levels – which may take years. to add more to our lives.

In addition to genetics, blood iron is usually controlled by diet and has already been linked to a number of age-related diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and liver. It also affects our body’s ability to fight infection as we get older.

We can add this latest study to the growing evidence that ‘too much iron’, or not being able to break it down properly, can affect how long we are likely to be. live, as well as how healthy we are likely to be in later years.

“Our ultimate goal is to find out how age governs and find ways to increase health as we age,” says Joris Deelen who studies age biology at Max Planck Institute for Aging Biology in Germany.

“The 10 regions of the genome we found that are related to longevity, health, and longevity are all inspiring candidates for further studies.”

The research was published in Nature Communication.

A draft of this article was first published in July 2020.