IHN Database

Iron controversy continues

MUNICH, GERMANY. Several studies have concluded that a high blood level of iron (high plasma ferritin value) increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and in particular, heart attacks. Other studies have found no such connection. A team of German, Dutch and Norwegian researchers has reviewed the available evidence and concludes that, "there is ample reason to suspect an iron-related cardiovascular hazard." They point out that high iron concentrations cause oxidative stress, a recognized risk factor for cardiovascular disease. They agree with the US Food and Nutrition Board which recently cautioned that a possible risk of liver damage and heart disease make it "prudent to recommend that men and postmenopausal women avoid iron supplements and highly fortified foods."

Dr. Christopher Sempos of the State University of New York points out that iron deficiency is common in the US, especially among toddlers, adolescents and women of childbearing age. He does not support the idea of ending iron fortification or encouraging blood donation in order to prevent heart disease.
Schumann, Klaus, et al. Tolerable upper intakes for dietary iron set by the US Food and Nutrition Board. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 76, September 2002, pp. 499-500
Sempos, Christopher T. Do body iron stores increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 76, September 2002, pp. 501-503

Editor's comment: While the jury is out on this I would suggest that men and postmenopausal women refrain from iron supplementation and that children and young women only supplement if there is a diagnosed need to do so.

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