Iron levels linked to heart disease risk: study

LONDON — Iron status, the amount of the nutrient in the body, may play an important role in the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), according to a study released Monday by the Imperial College London.

CAD is a type of cardiovascular disease (CVD) where clogged arteries reduce the amount of blood reaching the heart. CVD is a leading cause of death worldwide.

The study, carried out by researchers from the Imperial College London and the University College London, has tried to establish if there is a direct or causal link between levels of iron and the risk of CAD.

The team used genomic data from a public database to work out the impact of genetic variants on people’s iron status.

They focused on three points in the genome where a single “letter” difference in the DNA – called a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) – can slightly increase or reduce a person’s iron status.

When these SNPs were screened for in datasets including more than 50,000 patients with CAD, they found that those with the SNPs for higher iron status had a lower risk of CAD.

“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,” said Dr. Dipender Gill, a Wellcome Trust Clinical Fellow at Imperial College London and lead author of the study.

The next step would be to validate the findings in a randomized controlled trial, according to the team.

The study has been published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology.