Iron status may be link in degenerative diseases: Study

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Iron Vitamin c Toxicology

Eating purple fruits like blueberries and drinking green tea may help to prevent diseases including Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s, according to a new review.

The study, published in Archives of Toxicology​, suggests the majority of debilitating illnesses are, in part, caused by poorly-bound iron, which may lead to the production of dangerous toxins, called hydroxyl radicals, which react with cells and tissues in the body and lead to degenerative diseases.

“The importance of iron may have been missed because there is no gene for iron as such. What I have highlighted in this work is therefore a crucial area for further investigation, as many simple predictions follow from my analysis,” ​said Douglas Kell, professor of Bioanalytical Science at the University of Manchester and author of the review.

“If true they might change greatly the means by which we seek to prevent and even cure such diseases,”​ he added.

According to Kell, his review is the first time the link has been made between so many different diseases and the presence of the wrong form of iron, and gives a crucial clue as to how to prevent them or at least slow them down, he added.

Disease link

Kell said every pathway of disease is in some sense connected to every other. He highlighted evidence suggesting that “the degenerative effects of many diseases and toxicological insults converge on iron dysregulation.”

“This highlights specifically the role of iron metabolism, and the detailed speciation of iron, in chemical and other toxicology, and has significant implications for the use of iron chelating substances (probably in partnership with appropriate anti-oxidants) as nutritional or therapeutic agents in inhibiting both the progression of these mainly degenerative diseases​,” he said

He added that that the exact molecular mechanisms, cascades and networks involved in each case depend on many other factors, but argued that the “extensive evidence for iron’s involvement that I cite here and elsewhere is very hard to ignore.”


To protect the body from these dangerous varieties of poorly-bound iron, Prof Kell said it is vital to take on certain nutrients which can bind tightly to iron (known as iron chelators).

Brightly colored fruits and vegetables, and green tea, are known to be good sources of iron chelators, though purple fruits are considered to have the best chance of binding the iron effectively, said Kell.

He also noted that despite conflicting reports, the widely-publicized benefits of red wine seem to work in a different way, and have no benefit for iron binding.

Kell also indicated that excess vitamin C can in fact have the opposite effect to that intended if unbound iron is present. He said that although vitamin C is thought to be of great benefit to the body’s ability to defend itself against toxins and diseases, it can only work effectively when iron is suitably and safely bound.

Prof Kell argued that the means by which poorly bound iron accelerates the onset of debilitating diseases shows up areas in which current, traditional thinking is flawed and can be dangerous.

Source: Archives of Toxicology
Volume 84, Pages 825–889, doi: 10.1007/s00204-010-0577-x
“Towards a unifying, systems biology understanding of large-scale cellular death and destruction caused by poorly liganded iron: Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, prions, bactericides, chemical toxicology and others as examples “
Author: D.B. Kell

Related products

show more

Your partner in plant-based meat alternatives

Your partner in plant-based meat alternatives

Content provided by ADM | 15-May-2024 | White Paper

Harness our technical expertise and world-class portfolio of high-quality ingredients and formulations to create elevated, chef-driven, plant-based meat...

Related suppliers

Follow us


View more