A genetic disease in which the body takes in too much iron from food; this causes excess iron to be deposited in the liver and heart and other organs, eventually leading to organ failure and death. This illness is called "bronze diabetes" because the kidneys often fail, leading to symptoms similar to those found with diabetes mellitus, and because the deposition of iron into the skin makes the person look like he or she has an all-over tan. It used to be believed that this disease was rare and mainly affected people of Caucasian descent, but in recent years scientists have realized it is more common and affects a wide range of ethnic groups. Some believe that this genetic defect actually helps people (especially women) survive in areas where malnutrition is widespread and iron is scarce in food. Regular bloodletting (or blood donation) may help people suffering from this disease.
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