Elevated body iron could increase type 2 diabetes risk, particularly among men

Jack Woodfield
Thu, 01 Dec 2016
Elevated body iron could increase type 2 diabetes risk, particularly among men
Having mildly elevated levels of iron in the body could contribute to the prevalence and incidence of type 2 diabetes, according to Finland researchers.

The University of Eastern Finland also reports that men are more at risk because they tend to accumulate more body iron.

Excess body iron accumulation is known to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, the researchers said, because excess iron disturbs glucose metabolism and can damage the efficiency of beta cells to produce insulin.

In this study, the risk of type 2 diabetes was investigated through a range of iron stores in the body, as well as whether iron deficiency actually offers protection against type 2 diabetes.

The researchers examined iron stores in three glycemic states: normoglycemia (normal blood sugar levels), prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Researchers used markers of insulin resistance and beta cell function to assess the association with iron, with gender differences also explored.

Prediabetes had the strongest association between body iron and impaired glucose metabolism, while body iron was found to predict the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The researchers also uncovered that moderate iron stores are safer than having deficiency in body iron; deficiency did not offer any protection against type 2 diabetes.

Men had 61 per cent higher prevalence of body iron and 46 per cent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to women. Men were found to accumulate more iron than women, which explained around two-fifths and one-fifth of the gender difference in type 2 diabetes and incidence respectively.

Lead researcher Dr Alex O. Aregbesola explained: "This study provides a new body of evidence that mildly elevated body iron is an important risk factor of glucose metabolism derangement, which contributes to the increase in the prevalence and incidence of type 2 diabetes."

Aregbesola added that unhealthy dietary habits associated with the development of type 2 diabetes can increase dietary iron consumption, which is harmful when stored in excess in the body.

The study has been published in the Annals of Clinical Biology journal.
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