Can high ferritin levels cause weight gain? (+1 facts)

In this article, we will discuss if high ferritin levels may eventually cause weight gain. We will also discuss the mechanism by which ferritin levels may cause a weight increase.

Can high ferritin levels cause weight gain?

Yes, high ferritin levels may cause weight gain. High ferritin levels are known to increase body mass index, weight-to-hip ratio, and serum lipid levels in individuals. High ferritin levels may cause a higher body fat percentage and a poorer lean tissue index.

High ferritin levels are also known to increase waist circumference, and body mass (1). High ferritin levels are associated with liver-induced insulin resistance, diabetes, and inflammatory processes. All these factors lead to an increase in appetite, causing weight gain.

How high ferritin level cause weight gain?

High serum ferritin levels in healthy persons may be an indicator of insulin resistance syndrome and a sign of diabetes glycemic control. Glucose is the primary source of energy that your body obtains from the food.

In insulin resistance syndrome, the cells in fat, muscle, and liver do not respond to insulin in the body for cellular glucose uptake. Thus, your body cannot use glucose for energy. This insufficient energy conversion leads to an increase in hunger and subsequent weight gain (2).

Data also suggests that high iron stores due to elevated ferritin levels may cause diabetes in men and women. Elevated glucose levels and insufficient insulin increase your appetite, leading to weight gain (3).

Inflammation associated with high ferritin levels produces leptin resistance in the brain. This reduces your body’s ability to control appetite and energy consumption. This means you will always remain hungry, even if you are already full or have enough body fat. 

What does research suggest?

In a clinical study conducted on 1854 African people, high ferritin levels were associated with increased body mass index and body fat mass. The waist-to-hip ratio and waist circumference tended to increase with an increase in ferritin levels in both genders (1).

In one of the clinical studies, researchers concluded that an increase in waist-to-hip ratio due to high ferritin levels was not correlated with age (4). However, in another study, the authors found that visceral and subcutaneous fat distribution was dependent on age (5).

Similarly, research on the Spanish population demonstrated little connection between ferritin levels and the degree of adiposity in abdominal and central fat distribution (6). However, the Japanese population correlated well with ferritin levels and weight gain (5).

The researchers concluded that ethnicity may play an important in such scenarios. The Spanish population is known to have a greater waist-to-hip ratio than the caucasian and Japanese populations (7).

Other data suggested that high ferritin levels and associated cardiovascular diseases were more prominent in Mexican-American women and non-Hispanic black women. Obesity and cardiovascular diseases were lesser in non-Hespanic white women with high ferritin levels (8).

What disease may cause weight gain due to high ferritin levels?

High ferritin levels not only tell about iron stored in the body but also indicate elevated systemic inflammation. Inflammation may cause various metabolic disorders, including diabetes, insulin resistance, and adiposity.

Data suggest that patients with high ferritin levels had a higher occurrence of gestational diabetes mellitus. The pathophysiology of gestational diabetes mellitus was connected to systemic inflammation mediated by body fat mass and obesity (9).

High ferritin levels are also associated with central obesity, dyslipidemia, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disorder (10). Obese patients often feel hungry even when their hunger hormone, ghrelin, remains stable or even lower than the healthy person.

Research suggests that certain antibodies have a high affinity for ghrelin in obese patients, leading to extended appetite stimulation (11). Inflammation and diabetes also increase the appetite of the patient, causing weight gain while having high ferritin levels.

How to manage weight gain associated with high ferritin levels?

You must keep a check on your eatig habits and physical activities to reduce the weight gain associated with high ferritin levels. Some of the dietary and lifestyle modifications include:

Hemochromatosis diet

It refers to foods that are low in iron. There are two kinds of dietary iron; heam and nonhaem. Haem iron (present in meat and seafood) is more bioavailable as compared to nonhaem iron (found in plants, fortified products, meat and seafood).

If you have high ferritin levels, you should opt for a diet rich in nonhaem iron. Vegetables believed to have high iron content like spinach only contain nonhaem iron. It means you can consume vegetables with ease.

Grains contain phytic acid that inhibits the absorption of iron. Dairy products contain less or no iron, like pure cow’s milk, yoghurt, and cheese. Fish like salmon and tuna also contain low amounts of iron.

Lifestyle modifications

It is important to modify your lifestyle and general activities to lose weight with high ferritin levels. Adopt a healthy balanced diet whilst avoiding carbonated drinks, fried items, processed, and junk food. 

Regular physical activities like exercising, swimming, and walking increase your metabolic rate and help to reduce weight. Exercise also builds your muscle, which helps the body to burn fat and calories while you are resting.

Staying hydrated and reducing the consumption of alcohol also helps burn fat. A study suggests that fasting for 48 hours may help reduce high ferritin levels and weight. However, one-day fasting did not influence the ferritin level significantly (12).

As a pharmacist, I would suggest you control your weight and have a healthy diet. High ferritin levels may be an early indicator of complicated diseases and a cheap diagnostic method to identify such conditions. 

If you observe that you are gaining weight and your appetite is increasing day by day, consult your doctor immediately. Some drugs may also alter iron levels in the body, including antidepressants like Lexapro. Following a good diet plan, eating in small portions, and regular exercise may help reduce weight.

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