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Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Jan;79(1):70-5.

Dietary iron intake and blood donations in relation to risk of type 2 diabetes in men: a prospective cohort study.

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  • 1Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



Excessive iron stores may promote insulin resistance and lead to the development of type 2 diabetes. However, prospective data relating iron intake and blood donations (determinants of body iron stores) to diabetes incidence are limited.


We examined iron intake and blood donations in relation to the incidence of type 2 diabetes.


We followed men aged 40-75 y who participated in the Health Professionals' Follow-up Study; were free of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer in 1986; and provided dietary data (n = 38 394). Of those participants, 33 541 also provided a history of blood donation during the past 30 y in 1992.


During 12 y of follow-up, we ascertained 1168 new cases of type 2 diabetes. After adjustment for age, body mass index, and other diabetes risk factors, total iron intake was not associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes. Intakes of total heme iron [multivariate relative risk (RR) for extreme quintiles: 1.28; 95% CI: 1.02, 1.61; P for trend = 0.045] and of heme iron from red meat (RR: 1.63; 1.26, 2.10; P for trend < 0.001) were associated with an increased risk. However, heme-iron intake from sources other than red meat was not associated with diabetes risk (RR: 0.99; 0.81, 1.22). No significant associations were found between blood donation and the risk of type 2 diabetes.


Heme-iron intake from red meat sources is positively associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes. Total iron intake, heme-iron intake from non-red meat sources, and blood donations are not related to the risk of type 2 diabetes.

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