International Health News

Iron intake and coronary heart disease

ATHENS, GREECE. Iron catalyzes the oxidation of lipids (fats) and can promote heart attacks in animals. Its effects in humans are controversial; some studies have linked high iron intakes and high body stores of iron to heart disease while others have failed to find any correlation. Now a team of American and Greek researchers report that a high intake of dietary iron may indeed increase the risk of heart disease among older men and women. Their study involved 570 controls and 329 patients who had suffered a first heart attack or who had had a first positive coronary arteriogram. The researchers found that men aged 60 years or older with a monthly dietary iron intake greater than 400 mg had five times the risk of coronary heart disease than did men with an intake of 250 mg per month or less. They calculate that the risk of coronary heart disease increases by about 40 per cent for each extra 50 mg of iron consumed per month. The results for women aged 60 years or older were even more startling. The researchers estimate that these women increase their risk of heart disease by more than 260 per cent for each monthly 50 mg increment of iron intake. The researchers base their conclusions on the results of in-depth patient interviews carried out by four specially trained research assistants. The patients were asked to recall the average frequency of consumption of 110 common food items in the year prior to the onset of their heart disease symptoms. The data was analyzed statistically and adjusted for 14 sociodemographic, lifestyle, and nutritional variables known to affect the risk of heart disease.
Tzonou, A., et al. Dietary iron and coronary heart disease risk: a study from Greece. American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 147, January 15, 1998, pp. 161- 66

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