High in iron and other nutrients, red meat and other food sources are linked to a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia, according to a new study.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, used the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to track more than 18,000 Americans aged between 18 and 65 for a period of five years.
Researchers looked at blood samples from about 5,000 people in a population in northern Michigan and found that people with higher intakes of red meat, poultry and eggs were more likely to have iron deficiency anaemia.
“Our study provides the first definitive evidence that red meat intake is associated with a higher prevalence of iron-deficiency anemia,” lead author Dr David L. Koopman, a professor of medicine at the University of Michigan, said in a statement.
“This association is especially noteworthy because it is consistent with previous evidence indicating that red and processed meats are among the most common dietary sources of iron in the US.”
The association between red meat consumption and anemia was not observed among people who ate a variety of other foods including vegetables and fruit.
“The results are consistent with the hypothesis that red meats are the most nutrient dense food group in the diet,” Dr Koopmen said.
“However, the results do not show a strong association between dietary red meat availability and an increased risk of anemia.”
The researchers also found that individuals with higher iron intakes also had a higher body mass index, a measure of body fat that measures the percentage of body weight above and below a median of 0.8 kilograms (2.4 pounds).
The prevalence of an iron deficiency was higher among those with an older age and lower income.
The researchers said they were not able to pinpoint exactly why iron is linked to anemia in some people, but that there could be several factors.
“We can speculate that it could be a combination of diet, stress, or genetics, but it also could be related to environmental factors such as lack of access to healthy foods,” Dr Loughlin said.
“For example, if you are older, have more stressors, or your family has higher levels of inflammation, it may make sense to be more active, and if you eat less red meat you are less likely to get anemia.
But it is not clear why some people are at greater risk of developing anemia than others.”
One possibility is that there is an effect of dietary red meats on the production of an anti-inflammatory protein, but the precise mechanisms are unclear,” Dr Jepsen said.
Iron deficiency is a condition in which the body cannot produce enough iron from dietary iron, making it more difficult for the body to absorb the iron in foods.
The excess iron can cause anemia and other health problems, including iron-related cancers.
The prevalence and prevalence of high iron intake was highest in women and the lowest in men.
Dr Loughlock said the study could have important implications for people who are already struggling with iron deficiencies.”
For some people there may be an increase in the risk of being at an increased iron deficiency because of their current lifestyle,” he said.”[But] for others it may be a protective factor.
If you are someone with a low iron intake, there may still be a chance of developing iron deficiency if you have high iron intakes but also a low intake of certain foods.