Body iron status has been implicated in atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. The main hypothesis was that high iron status was associated with increased oxidation of LDL. The associations of serum ferritin (a marker of iron status) and dietary iron intake with the susceptibility of LDL to in vitro oxidation (lag phase) and autoantibodies against MDA-modified LDL (two markers of oxidation stress) were examined among 281 men and 192 women with a mean age of 59 years (S.D. = 5) who participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study visit 2 in 1990 through 1992. Lag phase duration and the autoantibodies against MDA-modified LDL were weakly correlated with each other (r = 0.19, P = 0.001 in men; r = 0.15, P = 0.03 in women). In linear regression analysis adjusting for age, field center, blood storage time, and carotid atherosclerosis case-control status, there was no association between ferritin level and the lag-phase, or between ferritin level and autoantibodies against MDA-modified LDL in either sex. Further adjustment for traditional cardiovascular risk factors (smoking, vitamin supplement use, body mass index, LDL cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes) did not alter these null results. Ferritin was significantly and positively correlated with body mass index in both sexes (r = 0.21 among men and r = 0.22 among women) and with the waist-to-hip ratio among women (r = 0.26). In addition, among women, ferritin was positively correlated with orosomucoid (r = 0.24) and with sialic acid (r = 0.19). Dietary iron was not associated with the parameters of LDL oxidation or with ferritin level. These findings do not support a role of body iron stores in promoting oxidation of LDL.