Study of More Than 1 Million People Finds Intriguing Link Between Iron Levels and Lifespan



  • A massive study published in 2020 found evidence that blood iron levels could play a role in influencing how long you live. It’s always important to take longevity studies with a big grain of salt, but the research was impressive in its breadth, covering genetic information from well over 1 million people across three public databases. It also focused on three key measures of ageing: lifespan, years lived free of disease (referred to as healthspan), and making it to an extremely old age (AKA longevity). (View Highlight)
  • Tags: #red-meat, #longevity, #blood, #iron, #genetics, #news/science
  • Put simply, having too much iron in the blood appeared to be linked to an increased risk of dying earlier. (View Highlight)
  • “We speculate that our findings on iron metabolism might also start to explain why very high levels of iron-rich red meat in the diet has been linked to age-related conditions such as heart disease.” (View Highlight)
  • While correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, the researchers used a statistical technique called Mendelian randomisation to reduce bias and attempt to infer causation in the data. (View Highlight)
  • Five of the genetic markers the researchers found had not previously been highlighted as significant at the genome-wide level. Some, including APOE and FOXO3, have been singled out in the past as being important to the ageing process and human health. (View Highlight)
  • Tags: #foxo3, #apoe
  • “It is clear from the association of age-related diseases and the well-known ageing loci APOE and FOXO3 that we are capturing the human ageing process to some extent,” wrote the researchers in their paper published in July 2020. (View Highlight)
  • Besides genetics, blood iron is mostly controlled by diet and has already been linked to a number of age-related diseases, including Parkinson’s and liver disease. It also affects our body’s ability to fight off infection as we get older. We can add this latest study to the growing evidence that ‘iron overload’, or not being able to break it down properly, can have an influence on how long we’re likely to live, as well as how healthy we’re likely to be in our later years. (View Highlight)