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Risks of Iron Overload

Hemochromatosis, or iron overload, is a condition where the body absorbs too much iron and can result in liver disease, arthritis and heart conditions. Hereditary hemochromatosis is an iron overload condition that is linked to variations in the HFE or SLC17A1 genes.1,2 Symptoms of hemochromatosis result from damage to various organs caused by iron overloading. Symptoms tend to appear earlier in affected men than in women.3,4

Hemochromatosis is the most common genetic disorder in the western world, affecting an estimated 1 in 300 Canadians.5 Of those affected by hemochromatosis, the occurrence of arthritis has been reported at rates of about 50% when rigorous criteria are used to define arthritis.6 A broader definition finds, arthritis caused by iron is common in anywhere from 35 to 60% of people, who have arthritis, especially in young people.7

Arthropathy often does not improve after iron depletion therapy, and persistence of joint symptoms is often detrimental to patients' quality of life.8,9 If there is a history of hemochromatosis in your family, talk to your healthcare professional about the Nutrigenomix® test. This test offers insights into your unique genetics and provides personal, actionable advice on how to work with your body to prevent conditions such as arthritis and heart disease. Other tests your healthcare professional may suggest include element analysis and ferritin to help determine your iron levels and how the body is currently using them.


1. Allen KJ et al. Iron-overload-related disease in HFE hereditary hemochromatosis. New England Journal of Medicine. 2008;358:221-30.

2. Pichler et al. Identification of common variant in the TFR2 gene implicated in the physiological regulation of serum levels. Human Molecular Genetics. 2011; 15:1232-40.

3. Pietrangelo A. Hereditary hemochromatosis—a new look at an old disease. N Engl J Med. 2004;350:2383-2397.

4. Edwards CQ, Griffen L, Bulaj Z, et al. Estimate of the frequency of morbid complications of hemochromatosis. In: Barton JC, Edwards CQ, eds. Hemochromatosis: Genetics, Pathophysiology, Diagnosis and Treatment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 2000:314.

5. https://www.toomuchiron.ca/hemochromatosis/how-common-is-it/

6. McDonnell SM, Preston BL, Jewell SA, et al. A survey of 2851 patients with hemochromatosis: symptoms and response to treatment. Am J Med. 1999;106:619-624.

7. http://www.consumerhealth.org/articles/display.cfm?ID=19990303140150

8. Edwards CQ. Hemochromatosis. In: Greer JP, Foerster J, Rodgers GM, et al, eds. Wintrobe's Clinical Hematology. 12th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health. In press.

9. Faraawi R, Harth M, Kertesz A, Bell D. Arthritis in hemochromatosis. J Rheumatol. 1993;20:448-452.