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Blood. 1997 Mar 15;89(6):2159-66.

Traditional beer consumption and the iron status of spouse pairs from a rural community in Zimbabwe.

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Department of Medicine, Medical School, University of Zimbabwe, Harare.


To examine the relationship between dietary iron exposure through the consumption of traditional beer and the presence of iron overload in black Africans not related by birth, we studied 28 husband and wife pairs from a rural Zimbabwean community. Lifetime traditional beer consumption was estimated by questioning subjects and iron status was assessed by repeated measurements of serum ferritin and transferrin saturation in subjects who were fasting and had received vitamin C supplementation. Each of the 56 study subjects had an estimated lifetime traditional beer consumption >1,000 L. The mean +/- standard deviation (SD) concentration of iron in the supernatants of nine samples of traditional beer from the community was 46 +/- 10 mg/L. Four of 28 men (14.3%) and no women had the combination of an elevated serum ferritin and a transferrin saturation >70%, suggestive of substantial iron overload. Significant correlations were not found between the iron status of the husbands and their wives or between dietary iron exposure and iron stores. Our findings suggest that dietary iron exposure may not fully explain the development of iron overload in Africans and are consistent with the hypothesis that an iron-loading gene may also be implicated in pathogenesis.

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