Iron Can Have Devastating Effects on Your Health
December 11, 2002
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Your body has the ability to naturally store iron, however, too much iron in the body may be linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other diseases.
In a recent study of elderly Americans, 13 percent of participants had high serum ferritin (SF), or iron stores, which were defined as SF levels of over 300 µg/L in men and over 200 µg/L in women. Dietary factors, including consuming iron-containing supplements, were significant risk factors.
Fruit or fruit juice and red meat were also associated with a risk of high iron stores. Participants who consumed three or more servings of fruit/fruit juice a day had a much higher risk of high iron stores than those who consumed two servings a day. Moreover, those who consumed more than four servings of red meat a weak had three times the risk of high iron stores than participants who ate four servings a week. Eating light meat, such as poultry, and seafood did not affect the risk.
An increased risk of high iron stores was also found among participants who chronically took high amounts of iron supplements (30 mg a day) intended for short-term clinical treatment. However, an increased risk was also found among those who consumed between 12 and 30 mg of iron a day, an amount commonly found in multivitamins. Researchers note that these findings suggest the use of supplemental iron, when not prescribed, by Americans who consume a Western-type diet (typically high in red meat) is unnecessary.
Conversely, the consumption of whole grains was found to decrease the risk of high iron stores. Those who consumed more than seven servings of whole grains per week had a 77 percent lower risk of high iron stores than those who did not eat whole grains. The association may be due to the inhibitory effect of fiber on the absorption of nonheme iron, researchers say.
American Journal Clinical Nutrition December 2002 76:1375-1384