Dietary iron intake, iron status, and gestational diabetes

Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Dec;106(Suppl 6):1672S-1680S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.117.156034. Epub 2017 Oct 25.


Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to iron deficiency and related adverse pregnancy outcomes and, as such, are routinely recommended for iron supplementation. Emerging evidence from both animal and population-based studies, however, has raised potential concerns because significant associations have been observed between greater iron stores and disturbances in glucose metabolism, including increased risk of type 2 diabetes among nonpregnant individuals. Yet, the evidence is uncertain regarding the role of iron in the development of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), a common pregnancy complication which has short-term and long-term adverse health ramifications for both women and their children. In this review, we critically and systematically evaluate available data examining the risk of GDM associated with dietary iron, iron supplementation, and iron status as measured by blood concentrations of several indicators. We also discuss major methodologic concerns regarding the available epidemiologic studies on iron and GDM.

Keywords: dietary iron; gestational diabetes mellitus; iron status; iron supplementation; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes, Gestational / blood
  • Diabetes, Gestational / diagnosis
  • Diabetes, Gestational / epidemiology*
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Hepcidins / blood
  • Humans
  • Iron / blood*
  • Iron Deficiencies
  • Iron, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / blood
  • Pregnancy Complications / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Receptors, Transferrin / blood


  • Hepcidins
  • Iron, Dietary
  • Receptors, Transferrin
  • Ferritins
  • Iron