How to Lower Iron without Phlebotomy

In my book, Dumping Iron, I wrote a section about the use of natural iron chelators to lower iron (ferritin) levels. These chelators include IP6, curcumin, green tea extract, and quercetin. Here’s what I wrote:

Most or all of these natural compounds have not undergone clinical trials in humans to determine how well and how much they can remove iron from the body, and their ability to do so is based on experiments using lab animals or cell culture. So there’s no hard data on how well they work in people. There are anecdotal reports of people greatly lowering their ferritin levels with some of these compounds, but they are after all just individual stories, so results may vary a lot between different people, depending on dose and lots of other factors.

If you use any of these natural compounds for lowering iron, you should therefore monitor your iron levels using periodic ferritin testing to ensure that you get the results you want.

Clinical trials using these iron chelators are not likely to happen any time soon, since they are all cheap and not patented, and therefore are unable to make profits for pharmaceutical companies. Add to that the fact of a prejudice in favor of drugs for any treatment, along with the generally unrecognized dangers of iron; basically no one in any position to do something about it cares about these natural compounds.
Dosages of these compounds for iron chelation are not known with certainty, and the suggested doses on the label should not be exceeded.

Given the above, I was delighted to hear from a reader of my book that she had lowered her ferritin greatly using natural chelators.

She stated that she found out two years ago that she had hemochromatosis, and her ferritin level was over 400. She’s fortunate she found it at that point, because that’s not a super-high ferritin value, although it would be for someone without the disease. Some hemochromatosis patients have ferritin levels in the thousands.

She began taking two scoops a day of IP6, a special formulation called IP6 Gold. This product was developed by Dr. Shamsuddin, the scientist who did most of the important research on IP6, and besides IP6 contains inositol, which he says makes it much more effective. One scoop is 6.9 grams, containing 3.2 grams IP6. (For comparison, I’ve been taking only 500 mg of IP6.)

She also takes curcumin three times a day. Curcumin is also an iron chelator.

In only a year and a half, she lowered her ferritin to just over 100, a much safer level.

That’s an amazing result. She has not donated blood nor had any therapeutic phlebotomies.

She stopped eating red meat, which is high in iron, and she stopped drinking alcohol, which increases iron absorption. She drinks coffee and green tea with meals, which inhibits iron absorption.

I think we can now say that hard data, as seen in lab testing, shows that one can greatly lower ferritin through natural iron chelators. If you are ineligible to donate blood, this looks like a good path to take for lowering iron.

Check out my book, Dumping Iron: How to Ditch This Secret Killer and Reclaim Your Health, for much more. Check out my supplements guide for more information on these natural iron chelators.

As of this writing, Life Extension still has a sale on ferritin testing.

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18 comments
Randall Parker says April 13, 2016

I’m eating dark grapes. I never see you mention grapes as compared to wine. Surely grapes are as good or better for having the right compounds? Any idea? I’m also eating Dove cocoapro dark chocolate that has more retained flavonoids. Check it out if you are not already aware.

I’m also taking Now EGCg green tea extract. I find the EGCg in particular seems to provide a mental boost and perhaps improves sleep.

I haven’t started on curcumin because I’m slow in adding and adjusting what’s in my diet. Makes it easier to tell if I’m getting adverse effects or benefit from something.

Also, reading Dumping Iron and quite enjoying it. You bring together a lot of research in compact format. Got all your books published to date. Looking forward to the next one.

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    P. D. Mangan says April 13, 2016

    Thanks, Randall, glad you like the books. Grapes probably do have all the same iron chelating ability of red wine. The difference is, I’m thinking, that you get a lot more of it in wine. (I take it you don’t drink wine, or maybe at all.) Googling this, it turns out you need 600 to 800 grapes to make a bottle of wine, or roughly 120 to 160 grapes per glass. So you’d have to eat a lot of grapes, and of course you’d get a lot of sugar in those grapes.

    I’ve started taking green tea extract myself and I agree about the mental boost, although it does have a small amount of caffeine – mine says 32 mg – so that could be what I’m feeling.

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Daniel F says April 13, 2016

Fantastic result. It would be interesting to also know about her other supplement regime: did she take magnesium, zinc, copper, or other metals that could be chelated away as well? I thought one reason Dr. E.D. Weinberg opposes using chelation is because of the danger of reducing other nutrients to dangerously low levels.

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    P. D. Mangan says April 14, 2016

    Hi Daniel, I don’t think Dr. Weinberg opposes chelation, unless you’ve read something I haven’t. In any case, IP6 is bound to calcium and magnesium, and iron replaces them when it comes into contact, since iron has a stronger affinity chemically for IP6. Therefore, there should be no problem with magnesium. As for zinc or copper, there haven’t been any documented cases of deficiency with IP6 – doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen of course The first documented cases of zinc deficiency in the literature – only 50 years ago – were in the Middle East among people who ate a large fraction of their diet as bread, which of course contains phytates – IP6. I believe that the same applies to zinc as to the others – since iron has higher chemical affinity for IP6 than does zinc, it shouldn’t take a lot of zinc with it.

    But of course one could supplement with zinc and magnesium anyway just to be careful. I doubt that copper is much of a concern.

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jrm says April 14, 2016

23andme:
no mutations for hemochromatosis

Lab results:
8/21/2015 Ferritin 424
1/5/2016 Ferritin 259
4/7/2016 Ferritin 157

Blood donations:
8/18/2015
11/8/2015
1/19/2016
3/21/2016

I eat about a pound and a half of beef or lamb each day. I like it and probably not giving it up. After reading your post about how high iron levels can affect insulin sensitivity, I wondered if played a role in my acne. I can eat a very low carbohydrate paleo diet and not get acne. But I feel like I have a very narrow carbohydrate range. Too low and I feel bad and have reduced sexual function. Too high (~70 grams a day) and I get acne. I started supplementing zinc when eating meat to reduce iron absorption. I noticed that I no longer have a narrow carbohydrate range. I can eat more carbs without getting acne. I don’t know whether to attribute it to donating blood or zinc supplementation (30 mg/day). (Loren Cordain mentions zinc supplementation in the Dietary Cure for Acne but I never tried it out before). I also supplement with curcumin (500 mg/day). I can’t comment on IP6 or quercetin. One disadvantage with being able to eat more carbohydrates is that I do and I gain weight.

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    P. D. Mangan says April 14, 2016

    jrm, thanks, interesting. A good thing you got tested for ferritin and even better that you brought it down. As for the carbs and improving insulin sensitivity, that could very well be. I feel like just a small amount of the wrong kind of food brings on acne. Though, now that I lowered my ferritin from 137 to 77 (at last check) that might have improved. I don’t think I was aware of zinc and acne – I should probably go back to supplementing.

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Daniel F says April 14, 2016

That’s helpful, Dennis. I am using both blood donation and various chelates to get my iron level down, so this issue has been on my mind since I am not as fastidious as I might be about the timing and amount of my magnesium and zinc supplementation.

Regarding Weinstein, although I did read (or really skim) his book, my comment above was actually based on something Anthony Colpo wrote, with some interpretation by me. While Weinstein’s book was great, it was far too technical for my needs and also – I thought – was aimed more at sufferers of hemochromatosis than ordinary people who just want to get their iron down. (Some other guy did recently write a much more practical and accessible book on reducing iron; name escapes me at the moment.) 🙂

Here is what Colpo wrote and the link. Perhaps I am reading too much into Weinstein s reasoning.

“My strong recommendation is to buy yourself a copy of the outstanding Exposing the Hidden Dangers of Iron by Garrison and Weinberg. Ignore the authors’ dismissal of IP6, and realize the recommendation to lower SF to 25 is for sedentary folks…otherwise the book is excellent and contains a wealth of information. If this book doesn’t convince you of the importance of keeping low iron stores, then nothing will.”

http://anthonycolpo.com/reader-mail-high-carb-paleo-diets-iron-reduction-protein-misinformation-and-more/

(Was not able to “respond” above for some reason, so inserting this as a new comment)

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Allan Folz says April 15, 2016

Concerning blood tests, what are folks’ thoughts on the comprehensive panels if one is already reasonably fit and healthy and mostly doing the right things wrt diet, exercise, supplements & sleep?

I see a useful purpose for Ferritin testing, since it’s an accumulative, silent killer.

However, if one does not have a malady that they are trying to diagnose, the comprehensive panels seem like an expensive way to find out you should keep doing what you’re doing. Maybe you will find out you need to up the intensity, but to be honest my intensity is already determined mostly by everything else that I have going on in my life.

The Healthy Aging and Male Comp. Hormone do look pretty interesting (albeit there is some overlap between the two), but on the other hand, it’s a lot of money for something very unlikely to cause me to change anything in my life.

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    P. D. Mangan says April 16, 2016

    Hi Allan, my feeling on that is yes and no. If you have no symptoms of anything and feel well, an abnormal result on a chemistry panel or CBC is only likely to get you prescribed a statin, or have your prostate messed with, or something else along those lines. Also, if you feel well, you’re unlikely to have an abnormal value. On the other hand, these tests are incredibly cheap. A comprehensive chemistry and CBC would likely run you several hundred dollars at your local lab if you walked in with a doctor’s order and no insurance. So 26 bucks (in that case, more for others) is an inexpensive way to satisfy one’s curiosity and to just be sure.

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Jay says April 16, 2016

Hi Dennis,

Read your book on iron, 2 donations this year already! Question – last month you mentioned on twitter that your hair was turning dark. Any updates on that, did it stay darker as the hair grew?

Best,
Jay

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    P. D. Mangan says April 16, 2016

    Hi Jay, yes, it’s getting darker! I have in mind to write a post on that, most unexpected development.

    Reply
Haraldur says April 17, 2016

Off topic:
Thanks for your blog! Im having some issues with the current page layout, though. When i don’t have the window maximized the page that im on is a long way down on the page, so I have to scroll down quite far.

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Allan Folz says April 20, 2016

I must give a quick shout-out to Life Extension/Lab Corp.

I ordered a pair of Ferritin tests on Saturday and opted for email delivery. Got the forms to print out and take with me on Sunday (btw, they are good for 6 months), on Monday I got online and scheduled a blood draw for Tuesday at lunch. My wife and I got our blood drawn, which took <15 minutes from the time we walked in the door to the time we walked out the door. Then received another email with all the results this morning. That's less than 24 hrs from blood draw to posted results. Nice.

As to the results — note, they are slightly compromised in that both my wife and I donated blood about 48 hrs prior to getting our blood drawn — 13 for her, 118 for myself.

Well, color me surprised. When she gave blood they didn't mention to her what her hemocrit was, but one has to presumable is was high enough for the Red Cross to allow her to donate. We eat a fair amount of beef, though not as much as we did a 4-6 years ago when we were about 90% LC-paleo + dairy (I'd call us 70% these days). We consume a fair amount of dairy, but never at dinner. Nor do we have coffee or tea at meals, very occasionally we'll have wine or beer.

There are two things I can see working in our favor. 1) Both of us try to go very light on wheat. 2) For my wife, she has birthed 3 children. My myself, my whole life I have had frequent nose-bleeds, though over the last 10 years they become much lighter than when I was a kid and young adult.

Or maybe we both just have good genes. I never discount that! We both have had grandmothers live to their upper 90's & I had a great-grandmother make it to 101 or 102 or 104. I lost track.

I'm thinking I'll of twice a year blood donations for myself, and once a year for my wife. She's also getting her ferritin tested again in a month or so since she's going to have a full blood work done as part of a general check-up. I'm curious if it drops further since the donation from three days ago will have had time to have its full effect.

Anyone with thoughts as to whether we should be concerned about anemia for her?

PS. Like many others have also mentioned, I still cannot reply directly to a comment. Get an error message from your server about my cache is out of date or my web browser has javascript disabled. Both of which are false.

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    P. D. Mangan says April 21, 2016

    Hi Allan, I’m in a big rush this morning, could I ask you a favor and could you try to reply to this comment? I’ve had a guy looking at the site and we need to test – it has always worked fine for me.

    Reply
    P. D. Mangan says April 21, 2016

    Thanks for that Allan. As for your wife, a ferritin of 13 is indeed quite low. Anemia is diagnosed via complete blood count though, so that’s the test that would tell the tale. I’ve heard from a friend who does testosterone replacement and who donates blood every 2 months to prevent a rise in hematocrit, which is one of the chief side effects of TRT. His last ferritin was 11, and he says he feels great – of course, his T is at 1600, so who wouldn’t.

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Allan Folz says April 21, 2016

Still doesn’t work.

I’ve tried on Safari and Firefox 44.0.2 from both Ubuntu and MacOS X 10.8

Might be the confirm you are NOT a spammer checkbox? That is not present when I try to reply to a comment (or use the reply button at the bottom of the thread), but it is available when starting a new post from the top of the comments. I presume you’re logged in when you reply so it won’t be doing that check.

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    P. D. Mangan says April 21, 2016

    Thanks for doing that, Allan. I will keep trying.

    Reply
Why Men Must Check Their Iron for Good Health - Rogue Health and Fitness says June 19, 2016

[…] rise in ferritin of 5 to 10 points a year, his rose that much in 2 to 4 weeks. This despite taking IP6 and curcumin, which have been shown to lower iron. Both his gene variant and being an “avid carnivore” (as I am) probably contributed to […]

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