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Iron intake and multiple health outcomes: Umbrella review

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posted on 13.10.2021, 18:21 by Yin Huang, Dehong Cao, Zeyu Chen, Bo Chen, Jin Li, Ruyi Wang, Jianbing Guo, Qiang Dong, Chengfei Liu, Qiang Wei, Liangren Liu

Iron is an essential trace element, while excess iron can lead to different levels of physical abnormalities or diseases. This umbrella review aimed to conduct a systematic evaluation of the possible relationships between iron intake and various health outcomes. We retrieved PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, Scopus, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews from inception through May 2021. A total of 34 meta-analyses with 46 unique health outcomes were identified. Heme iron intake was positively associated with nine outcomes, including colorectal cancer, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease mortality, while dietary total iron intake could decrease the risk of colorectal adenoma, esophageal cancer, coronary heart disease, and depression. Iron supplementation was a protective factor against eight outcomes. However, it was associated with decreased length and weight gain. The quality of evidence for most outcomes was “low” or “very low” with the remaining eleven as “high” or “moderate”. All outcomes were categorized as class III, IV, or NS based on evidence classification. Although high iron intake has been identified to be significantly associated with a range of outcomes, firm universal conclusions about its beneficial or negative effects cannot be drawn given the low quality of evidence for most outcomes.


This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Number 82000721) and Program from the Depàrtment of Science and Technology of Sichuan Province (Grant Number 2020YJ0054).