Level of dietary iron, not type of dietary fat, is hyperlipidemic in copper-deficient rats

J Am Coll Nutr. 1999 Aug;18(4):353-7. doi: 10.1080/07315724.1999.10718875.


Objective: This study was conducted to determine whether high dietary iron will negate the protective effect of unsaturated fat against hyperlipidemia.

Methods: Forty-eight weanling, male Sprague Dawley rats were randomly assigned to eight dietary groups differing in the levels of copper and iron and type of dietary fat (saturated or unsaturated). The diets were either deficient (0.6 microg Cu/g) or adequate (6.8 microg Cu/g) copper and either adequate (53 microg Fe/g) or high (506 microg Fe/g) iron. All diets contained starch as the sole source of dietary carbohydrate.

Results: Regardless of the type of dietary fat, three copper-deficient rats fed the high levels of dietary iron died prematurely due to ruptured hearts. Surviving rats belonging to the copper deficiency and high-dietary iron regimen developed severe anemia, enlarged hearts and livers, and exhibited the highest levels of liver iron. These rats also developed hypercholesterolemia. Triglycerides were elevated by the consumption of high iron diets.

Conclusion: Data show that levels of dietary iron, not the type of dietary fat, are potential inducers of hypertriglyceridemia. Data also show that the combination of high iron intake and dietary copper deficiency is responsible for elevating blood cholesterol.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Copper / administration & dosage*
  • Copper / deficiency*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Heart / anatomy & histology
  • Hyperlipidemias / etiology*
  • Iron, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Liver / anatomy & histology
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Dietary Fats
  • Iron, Dietary
  • Triglycerides
  • Copper
  • Cholesterol