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This study suggests a link between healthy aging and moderate levels of iron in the blood

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A large genetic study found that several genomic regions linked to a longer, healthier life were also involved in iron metabolism in the blood. Abnormal iron levels may be the cause of many age-related illnesses, researchers say.

An unsuspected link between abnormal iron metabolism and age-related diseases

Although it is essential for the proper functioning of the human body, the presence of abnormally low or high levels of iron in the blood can quickly lead to a wide variety of problems. As its cellular metabolism is globally regulated by a number of genes, mutations in these genes are likely to lead to disorders such ashemochromatosis, involving an overabundance of iron in the body.

Conducted by researchers fromUniversity of Edinburgh and theMax Planck Institute, this new study published in the journal Nature Communications first focused on determining which genes might be linked to a longer, healthier life. Three large public genomic datasets were analyzed, encompassing more than one million subjects, including 60,000 of unusually advanced age.

Ten genomic regions were found to correlate with longer lifespan, better health as well as greater longevity (i.e. an unusually long lifespan, defined as survival beyond the age corresponding to the 90th percentile), five of which have never previously been linked to healthy aging. More importantly, a number of these genomic regions identified in the study had genes involved in the iron metabolism.

Therefore, the researchers determined that abnormal metabolism of iron in the blood could lead to a number of age-related diseases. While the irregular iron metabolism seen in the study was not sufficient to cause acute iron-related problems like hemochromatosis, it did, however, lead to long-term, low-level iron build-up in most areas of the body. affected by age-related degeneration.

This graph shows that the total lifespan is strongly linked to the healthy lifespan (healthspan) and longevity, while the correlation is less marked between the latter two – © P. Timmers and al. / Nature Creative Commons

Control iron levels to ‘better’ age

These results are particularly exciting, as they strongly suggest that high levels of iron in the blood reduce our healthy years of life. Therefore, controlling these levels could prevent age-related damage “, valued Paul Timmers, co-author of the study. ” Our findings about iron metabolism may also partly explain why very high levels of iron-rich red meat in the diet have been linked to age-related health issues, such as heart disease.. “

In recent years, a growing body of research has investigated the link between abnormal levels of iron in the brain and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical trials are currently underway to determine whether reducing iron levels in the brain can slow or prevent cognitive decline.

According to Joris Deelan, of the’Max Planck Institute, more research is needed to determine exactly how these specific genomic regions influence aging. But this new study certainly reinforces the increasingly popular idea that homeostasis altered iron could be a precursor to many age-related problems.

Our ultimate goal is to find out how aging is regulated and to find ways to improve health during it. », Explains the researcher. ” The ten regions of the genome that we have discovered that are linked to lifespan, health status and longevity are all promising candidates for further research.. “


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