The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the Iron Rich Foods Database (IRFDC) is one of the largest ever compiled on food sources of dietary iron, and the findings suggest that the best way to lose weight is to eat more iron-rich foods, not less.
Iron is essential for a healthy immune system and plays a key role in many vital bodily functions, including: red blood cell production, red blood clotting, the ability to digest food, the growth of red blood cells, and oxygen delivery to tissues and organs.
According to the CDC, about 10 percent of the population has iron deficiencies.
Iron deficiency can lead to heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, stroke, and other medical conditions.
But studies have shown that consuming foods rich in iron can help people get healthy.
A 2009 study from Johns Hopkins University found that people who ate more than one cup of red meat a day lost weight, and a 2011 study found that eating a low-fat, high-sodium diet increased the body’s ability to store fat.
Researchers at the University of Utah, led by Dr. Michael F. Hu, a professor of preventive medicine, found that iron deficiency has a genetic component and may affect how we respond to other nutritional deficiencies.
In their latest study, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, followed about 10,000 men and women who were followed for six years for their diet and physical activity, and found that those who ate a diet high in iron had an increased risk of obesity.
That increased risk was not associated with the type of iron consumed, but with how much iron they ate.
Participants were then followed up through an in-person interview.
After one year, the researchers followed the participants through a dietitian-diagnosed exercise program, where they participated in physical activity twice a week for 12 weeks.
During the six-year follow-up, researchers found that participants who ate the most iron during the follow-ups were at a greater risk of gaining weight, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
In the study, the investigators noted that the participants in the low-iron group had lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides, and lower levels of cholesterol, but no significant differences were found in blood pressure or triglycerides between the low and high-iron groups.
Dr. Hu told ABC News that the results show that iron is an important component of healthy diet, and it is not just a diet problem.
It is a lifestyle problem.
“We don’t have the data to say that iron supplements are the right way to go for a person to lose some weight, but we do know that there are some people who are more likely to be affected by this kind of a deficiency than others,” he said.
“The evidence is now very clear that it is important for people to consume foods high in the iron spectrum.
This is really an indication that we need to be more concerned about eating foods high up in iron.”
Dr. Michael C. Sacks, a nutritional epidemiologist and professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, told ABCNews.com that the findings “reinforce the need to reduce iron-containing foods.”
He added that the new findings also suggest that people need to eat at least twice a day to achieve the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
He noted that many studies show that eating foods rich with iron reduces the risk of death and is associated with a reduced risk of cancer.
“There is a large body of evidence that the RDA is an extremely important marker of health and that it may also predict mortality,” Dr. Sack said.
“People who are consuming more iron should be aware of the risk that they are increasing.”