Red meat contains the heme form of iron.
Just in time to dampen your summer cookout plans, scientists have found that the iron in red meat may raise your risk for heart disease, while iron in vegetable sources such as beans seems to have no ill effect.
The findings may contribute to a better understanding of the connection between meat-heavy diets and heart disease, the researchers said.
The type of iron in question is called heme iron, which is found in animal-based foods, particularly beef.
Heme iron is absorbed much better by the body compared to with the non-heme iron found in vegetables.
For this reason, experts recommend meat as a source of dietary iron, an essential nutrient.
But heme iron's excellent bioavailability — perhaps a bit ironically — enables it to bypass the body's finely tuned iron-regulation system, and ultimately cause inflammation and other damage in the arteries, a new analysis suggests. The study, by scientists at Indiana University School of Public Health in Bloomington, will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Nutrition.
Too much iron in the blood has long been suspected to contribute to heart disease and even cancer, but studies have been inconclusive. In the new research, the scientists analyzed 21 previous studies involving nearly 300,000 participants over about 10 years. [7 Foods You Can Overdose On]
This new analysis is unique because it is the first of its size to consider the independent effects of heme, non-heme and total iron on people's risk of coronary heart disease. The participants who consumed the most heme iron — that is, iron obtained by eating any kind of meat or fish — had a 57 percent increase in the risk of developing heart disease, compared with those who consumed the least amount of heme iron.
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