Regular drinking and high iron ups risk for heart disease

May 4, 2005 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Regular drinking and high iron ups risk for heart disease

In a study of more than 34,000 women, researchers from the University of Minnesota have found that the combination of regular drinking and high iron intake from meat may be associated with an elevated risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

The 15-year study found that among women who drank roughly a drink or more a day, the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease rose in tandem with a woman's average intake of heme iron, the form of iron consumed through meat. Among these regular drinkers, those who ate the most heme iron had more than twice the risk of cardiovascular death as those who ate the least.

Iron from supplements was not strongly related to cardiovascular disease, while nonheme iron -- found in plant sources such as beans and grains and in fortified cereals -- showed a more complicated relationship to cardiovascular disease. Among regular drinkers, those who ate moderate levels of plant-based iron had a lower risk of cardiovascular death than both women who ate little nonheme iron and those who ate the most.

Researchers speculate that the alcohol triggers the release of iron from the proteins in the body where the mineral is normally stored. While iron is an essential nutrient, it's suspected that significantly high levels in the body contribute to the generation of reactive oxygen species -- molecules that can damage body cells and, over time, may promote heart disease, cancer and other ills.

Researchers conclude that moderation in a person's diet and drinking habits are very important to their health. In general the study supports following a diet rich in whole, plant-based foods.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.