66-year-old man sees iron deficiency resolved after stopping superfood ‘supplement’

Maintaining healthy iron levels is essential for the production of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells. Without the chemical, blood cell production stops, setting the stage for heart problems and infections. Supplementation and a balanced diet can offset these risks, but it may also be worth limiting some superfoods.

In 2019, the medical journal Cureus reported the case of a 66-year-old doctor who treated osteoarthritis with six capsules of turmeric extract (538 mg) daily.

The report states that throughout treatment, the man’s iron and ferritin levels were consistent with iron deficiency.

However, two weeks after stopping the turmeric supplement and continuing with the regular iron supplement, the man’s hemoglobin returned to normal.

“Turmeric has been associated with significant iron deficiency anemia, consistent with binding available iron in the gut and preventing absorption,” the report’s authors explained.

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“This resolved after turmeric was discontinued, which is consistent with animal studies.”

Although a causal relationship with turmeric is difficult to prove here, no other cause of iron deficiency or blood loss was found on examination.

Some health websites recommend using turmeric supplements to help relieve arthritis symptoms, but other reports also highlight the risk of iron deficiency when taking such supplements.

In fact, several case studies have been described in which anemic patients responded positively to stopping turmeric.


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According to the National Institutes of Health, turmeric is among those known to inhibit iron absorption in humans by 20 to 90 percent.

The effects are dose dependent, meaning the more turmeric consumed, the greater the iron inhibitory effect.

The stoichiometric qualities of the spice may be responsible for these effects, according to the National Institutes of Health.

In fact, these qualities of turmeric “indicate that it can bind almost all of the available iron and cause iron deficiency,” the health authority explains.

READ MORE: Woman’s severe ‘deficiency’ causes blood clots in both lungs

Given the widespread use of turmeric supplements to treat common ailments, the authors of the case study believe it deserves further attention.

Turmeric is one of several plant foods known to interfere with the absorption of iron by the body.

Typically, factors include phytates found in grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and polyphenols such as tannins found in coffee, tea and red wine.

In 2002, researchers suggested that the polyphenols in purple grape juice are strong enough to interfere with iron absorption.

The findings, published in the journal Agricultural Food Chemistry, showed that grape juice and prune juice had a “profound inhibitory effect on iron bioavailability.”

The authors noted, “These inhibitory effects were likely due to high levels of polyphenolic compounds that bind and thereby prevent the absorption of soluble iron.”

Eating a well-balanced diet that includes iron-rich foods usually helps prevent iron deficiency anemia.

However, some people may need to take iron supplements under medical supervision to maintain healthy levels.

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