High iron stores in women of reproductive age may increase cardiovascular risk

November 21, 2002

An increasing proportion of individuals in modern industrialized societies are iron replete, rather than iron deficient, and iron overload has been implicated as a possible source of increased cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Ramakrishnan et al. examined data on reproductive age women from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), including the relationship between race-ethnicity, iron status, and CVD risk factors.

The participants included 1,178 white, 1,093 African-American, and 1,075 Mexican-American women aged 20 to 49 years who were subdivided into low, medium, or high iron status categories according to their serum ferritin concentrations, a measure of iron stores in the body. Within each racial group, most indicators of CVD risk increased with serum ferritin status. For example, triacylglycerol and total cholesterol concentrations were higher, and HDL cholesterol concentrations were lower among subjects with the highest serum ferritin values. Mexican-American women had significantly higher concentrations of triacylglycerols and glucose and lower HDL concentrations than whites and African-Americans, even though their iron stores were lower than the other two racial groups. The authors suggest that future studies should address issues of racial differences in response to iron repletion and/or iron deficiency as risk factors for chronic disease.
Ramakrishnan, Usha, et al. Iron stores and cardiovascular disease risk factors in women of reproductive age in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;76:1256-60.

This media release is provided by The American Society for Clinical Nutrition to provide current information on nutrition-related research. This information should not be construed as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, consult your doctor. To see the complete text of this article, please go to:


For more information, please contact: uramakr@sph.emory.edu.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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