We know we have to take care of ourselves and eat well, but sometimes we slip and make some mistakes with our diet. In some cases it results in low levels of iron, but what does it mean for our health? Now scientists from UCL conducted a study revealing that low iron levels may contribute to a greater risk of heart disease.
Scientists have found that iron has somewhat of a protective effect against coronary artery disease. This is quite important, because coronary artery disease is a leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. This is quite interesting, because previous researches produced somewhat conflicting results – some said that high concentrations of iron may contribute to the disease, while others were stating the opposite. Because so many different factors are involved in the risk of developing coronary artery disease researching the link between iron concentration and heart condition was very challenging.
Now scientists employed a method called Mendelian randomization. It helped to work around other factors, such as age, gender, physical activity, and to establish that there is in fact a link between iron concentration in the body and the risk of coronary artery disease. The lower the iron levels, the bigger the risk of getting the heart disease.
Researchers analysed data from 48,000 people, paying attention to their genetics and how they influence their iron levels. Small difference in DNA, called single nucleotide polymorphism, is what can influence person’s iron levels so scientists focused on that. Because it is in the genes, scientists did not have to worry about age, societal status or gender. So their findings, showing that people low iron levels face a greater risk of coronary artery disease, are reliable.
Now scientists are thinking about next steps for this study. They will try establishing a randomised controlled trial, in which participants would be given iron supplements or placebo. Researchers think that this study will have great implications. Dipender Gill, lead author of the study, said: “We have shown that having low iron status increases the risk of coronary artery disease, but this doesn’t mean correcting that resolves the increased risk. What we have highlighted is a potential therapeutic target that we didn’t know about before, and one that’s easily modifiable”.
Keeping your body in balance is extremely important. You have to watch your diet and, if needed, take supplements. Low iron levels could pose some immediate effects, but also could contribute to coronary artery disease in the future. So it really pays off maintaining it in order.