Background: High body iron stores may increase the risk of several chronic diseases. Whether dietary factors contribute to the risk of high iron stores is unknown.
Objective: We assessed the relation between dietary factors and the risk of high iron stores in the elderly Framingham Heart Study cohort.
Design: We examined the relation between the usual intake of dietary factors (food-frequency questionnaire) and the risk of high iron stores (serum ferritin >300 and 200 micro g/L in men and women, respectively) in 614 subjects aged 68-93 y.
Results: The risk of high iron stores was significantly higher 1) in subjects who took > or =30 mg supplemental Fe/d than in nonusers [odds ratio (OR): 4.32; 95% CI: 1.63, 11.47], 2) in subjects who consumed >21 servings of fruit/wk than in those who consumed < or =14 servings/wk (OR: 2.88; 95% CI: 1.26, 6.61), and 3) in subjects who consumed >4 but <7 or > or=7 servings of red meat/wk than in those who consumed < or =4 servings/wk (ORs: 2.94 and 3.61, respectively; 95% CIs: 1.33, 6.47 and 1.57, 8.27, respectively). Whole-grain intake (>7 servings/wk) was inversely associated (OR: 0.23; 95% CI: 0.07, 0.75).
Conclusions: Among elders, intakes of highly bioavailable forms of iron (supplemental iron and red meat) and of fruit, a dietary source of an enhancer of nonheme-iron absorption (vitamin C), promote high iron stores, whereas foods containing phytate (whole grains) decrease these stores. Individual dietary patterns may be important modulators of high iron stores.