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J Nutr. 2002 Oct;132(10):3146-50.

Iron supplementation increases disease activity and vitamin E ameliorates the effect in rats with dextran sulfate sodium-induced colitis.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Ontario M5G-2C4, Canada.


Inflammatory bowel disease is often associated with iron deficiency anemia and oral iron supplementation may be required. However, iron may increase oxidative stress through the Fenton reaction and thus exacerbate the disease. This study was designed to determine in rats with dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis whether oral iron supplementation increases intestinal inflammation and oxidative stress and whether the addition of an antioxidant, vitamin E, would reduce this detrimental effect. Four groups of rats that consumed 50 g/L DSS in drinking water were studied for 7 d and were fed: a control, nonpurified diet (iron, 270 mg, and dl-alpha-tocopherol acetate, 49 mg/kg); diet + iron (iron, 3000 mg/kg); diet + vitamin E (dl-alpha-tocopherol acetate, 2000 mg/kg) and the diet + both iron and vitamin E, each at the same concentrations as above. Body weight change, rectal bleeding, histological scores, plasma and colonic lipid peroxides (LPO), plasma 8-isoprostane, colonic glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and plasma vitamin E were measured. Iron supplementation increased disease activity as demonstrated by higher histological scores and heavier rectal bleeding. This was associated with an increase in colonic and plasma LPO and plasma 8-isoprostane as well as a decrease in colonic GPx. Vitamin E supplementation decreased colonic inflammation and rectal bleeding but did not affect oxidative stress, suggesting another mechanism for reducing inflammation. In conclusion, oral iron supplementation resulted in an increase in disease activity in this model of colitis. This detrimental effect on disease activity was reduced by vitamin E. Therefore, the addition of vitamin E to oral iron supplementation may be beneficial.

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