Friday, February 17, 2006

Iron and heart disease

It has been suggested that iron plays a role in the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD) through its pro-oxidant properties. However, epidemiological studies on iron status and the risk of CVD have yielded conflicting results. A prospective study to evaluate the relationship between iron status and CVD in a middle-aged French population was performed.

Serum ferritin was positively associated with total cholesterol, serum triglycerides, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, body mass index and hemoglobin. However, no linear association was found between serum ferritin and heart disease risk in men or in women. The researchers concluded that the data do not support a major role of iron status in the development of heart disease in a healthy general population.

This was an intriguing look at ferritin, a measure of the iron stores in the body, and the association with cardiovascular disease. Many believe that the pro-oxidant, iron, damages arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease. Perhaps the elevated levels of ferritin in diseased tissue arteries are a consequence of the heart disease process, not a cause. In fact, in one study, low iron concentration was associated with with inflammation and infection, boosting the risk of heart disease.

So, eating lean foods higher in iron, may be OK. Just keep the saturated fat content low and monitor other risk factors, as mentioned above.

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