VeganHealth Update: Iron and Vegetarian Diets
I have been silent lately due to updating the Iron article at VeganHealth.org. In the past, it has been just a mishmash of bits I’ve written as needed. It is now a well-organized, tight piece (I hope).
One new addition worth mentioning is on type 2 diabetes. Excerpt:
“There is evidence that the beta cells of the pancreas, which produce insulin, are particularly susceptible to oxidation from iron due to their weak antioxidant defense mechanisms. A 2012 meta-analysis of prospective studies found that higher iron stores (6 studies) and higher intakes (5 studies) of heme iron [a type of iron found only in meat] at baseline were strongly associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes (1). Higher intakes of non-heme iron were not associated.
“A cross-sectional study from the USA found lower ferritin [stored iron] levels in lacto-ovo vegetarians (35 µg/l) than meat-eaters (72 µg/l). The vegetarians also had higher insulin sensitivity. Upon giving phlebotomies to 6 male meat-eaters to reduce their ferritin levels, their insulin sensitivity increased. The authors suggested that the lower ferritin levels could be a reason why vegetarians had greater insulin sensitivity (2).
“It is possible that the lower risk of type 2 diabetes in vegetarians (see Type 2 Diabetes and the Vegan Diet), which has been shown to be independent of body mass index, could be partially explained by their lower iron stores.”
Link to full article: Iron. Warning: It’s long and not required reading.
1. Bao W, Rong Y, Rong S, Liu L. Dietary iron intake, body iron stores, and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Med. 2012 Oct 10;10:119. | link
2. Hua NW, Stoohs RA, Facchini FS. Low iron status and enhanced insulin sensitivity in lacto-ovo vegetarians. Br J Nutr. 2001 Oct;86(4):515-9. | link