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February 14, 2007

The Iron-Heart Hypothesis: Search for the Ironclad Evidence

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health; and Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.

JAMA. 2007;297(6):639-641. doi:10.1001/jama.297.6.639

The iron-heart hypothesis first put forth by Sullivan1 in 1981 suggests that increased body iron stores are a risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD) and thus that iron depletion through phlebotomy or other means can reduce risk. The hypothesis, which was based on markedly lower incidence of CHD in premenopausal women (who lose iron through menstruation) compared with men and postmenopausal women, is intuitively appealing and seems to be well-grounded in biochemistry.