People with too much iron are more likely to contract diabetes and liver disease according to a joint study released on Friday.While the medical issues associated with an iron deficiency have been well-documented, the study by researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA) and Imperial College London revealed the implications of an iron surplus.
They found that people with high iron levels are protected against anaemia, a blood condition linked to iron deficiency, and are less likely to have high cholesterol but are also more likely to contract liver disease, diabetes and bacterial skin infections.
UniSA geneticist and co-author of the study Beben Benyamin said that the link between an iron surplus and a lower risk of high cholesterol was particularly important.
"We used a statistical method, called Mendelian randomization that employs genetic data to better estimate the causal effect of iron status on 900 diseases and conditions. Through this, we found a link between excess iron and a reduced risk of high cholesterol," he said in a media release.
"This could be significant given that raised cholesterol is a major factor in cardiovascular disease and stroke, causing around 2.6 million deaths each year according to the World Health Organization.
"In this study we have provided population-based evidence that iron is associated with certain diseases. The next step is to investigate whether direct manipulation of iron levels improve health outcomes through clinical trials."Benyamin and co-author Dipender Gill from the Imperial College London also found that people with high iron levels are more likely to contract cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection that affects 21 million people in 2015 and kills 17,000.