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While red meat is commonly lauded as a healthy and nutrient-dense choice, beware! A high iron diet may actually cause you to reach for more snacks later.

Iron is a mineral naturally found in many foods. Researchers at the Wake Forest Baptist Center have discovered that consuming a diet with high amounts of iron, such as red meat, may increase your appetite. The consumption of iron suppresses leptin, an appetite-regulating hormone. Since iron does not pass through the body, the accumulation of iron can easily cause one to overeat.

In addition, high levels of iron may increase one’s risk for certain diseases. “In people, high iron, even in the high-normal range, has been implicated as a contributing factor to many diseases, including diabetes, fatty liver disease and Alzheimer’s,” said Don McClain, MD, PhD, director of the Center on Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism at Wake Forest Baptist.

Iron from red meat can increase hunger later on after eating it.

Image Source: Piccell

In the study, two sets of mice were fed 2000 mg/kg and 35 mg/kg diets for two months. Researchers discovered that mice consuming high iron diets experienced a 215% increase in iron content. They found that the increase in iron content triggered the leptin hormone levels to decrease, thus increasing hunger.

“We don’t know yet what optimal iron tissue level is, but we are hoping to do a large clinical trial to determine if decreasing iron levels has any effect on weight and diabetes risk,” McClain said. “The better we understand how iron works in the body, the better chance we have of finding new pathways that may be targets for the prevention and treatment of diabetes and other diseases.”

The next time you find yourself reaching for a snack, it may in fact be due to the foods you have eaten earlier; it’s important to remember that being more mindful of our food choices affects not only our temporary health, but our long-term health as well.

Feature Image Source: DSC_1491 by Ronald Sarayudej

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