What Are the Dangers of Cooking in Cast Iron Pans?

Cast iron cookware "leaches" iron into food, in amounts significant enough that years ago cast iron pots were a major dietary iron source. While this can serve as a nutritional advantage for some, in particular pre-menopausal women who according to DrWeil.com may already get enough iron in their diet, there are certain dangers associated with cast iron in food.

A blueberry cobbler in a cast iron skillet. (Image: tvirbickis/iStock/Getty Images)

Pediatric Iron Toxicity

Children under age three are particularly susceptible to iron toxicity according to the Columbia University Health System "Ask Alice" column. Symptoms of iron toxicity include nausea, diarrhea and hemorrhaging. Parents should play it safe and avoid using iron cookware when cooking for young children.

Iron Overload Disease

The inherited metabolic disorder known as hemochromatosis or iron overload disease affects as many as 1 million in the United States alone, according to DrWeil.com. Symptoms of this condition include fatigue, heart palpitations, joint pain, and stomach pain. In teens and mature men and women, impotence or an interruption in menstruation can occur.

Excess Iron Intake

Those who get sufficient iron in their diet via foods like red meat, beans, dark and leafy greens, and certain tree nuts may also suffer from the additional iron that comes from cast iron cookware. Excess iron can act as a pro-oxidant and increase the risk of heart disease, cancer and advanced aging.

Rancid Food

Cast iron cookware can make food rancid when used for deep-frying. This phenomenon occurs, according to DrWeil.com, because iron causes fat to oxidize more quickly than normal. Food that is rancid may contain harmful bacteria that can cause diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pains. Rancid food also tastes terrible.

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