Excess iron intake increases risk of intestinal infections, study suggests

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Researchers here believe that an overdose of iron in the nation's diet could be rendering thousands of otherwise healthy people prone to intestinal infection.

In a laboratory study, the researchers found that human intestinal cells with excess iron were more susceptible to attack by bacteria that cause infection of the small intestine.

The study suggests that enriching breakfast cereals and other foods with high doses of iron - a nutritional strategy that has been widely adopted to eliminate iron deficiency in the population - could be causing other health problems.

"Instead of fortifying everyone's diet with excess iron, we should diagnose iron deficiency and then provide supplemental iron only to those who need it," said Mark Failla, professor of nutrition at Ohio State University and the senior author of the study. Failla and his colleagues reported the study in a recent issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

Failla's group arrived at these conclusions after laboratory experiments with human cells that are virtually identical to cells lining the small intestine. These epithelial cells of the small intestine transfer iron from digested foods to the bloodstream for transport to the body's various organs. Iron is vital for a variety of metabolic proc

Contact: Mark Failla
Ohio State University

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