Iron and oxidative stress

Iron is one of the essential trace elements. About 70% is contained in the blood pigment hemoglobin and in the muscle pigment myoglobin. Many significant metabolism enzymes are iron dependent, which is why a lack of iron should be prevented.

In 1992 a connection between increased iron reserves and a 2.2 fold increased risk for cardiac infarction was first described. This finding could meanwhile be confirmed by other studies. (34, 35)

Heme iron from red meat is resorbed ten times as well as iron of vegetable origin. There is a positive connection between the risk for cardiac infarction and the intake of heme iron. Excess iron forms free radicals and damages LDL by oxidative stress. Oxidative damaging of LDL, on the other hand, is the most important pathogenetic principle for the formation of foam cells and atherosclerotic plaques.

A well-balanced vegetarian diet does not lead to a lack of iron. Vegetarians, as a rule, have lower iron reserves, which according to a recent study results in a higher insulin sensitivity. (36)


  1. (34)Tanaka T et al: Vegetarian diet ameliorates symptoms of atopic dermatits through reduction of the number of peripheral eosinophils and PGE2 synthesis by monocytes; J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci 2001 Oct; 20(6): 353-61
  2. (35)Klipstein-Grobusch K et al: Dietary iron and risk of myocardial infarction in the Rotterdam Sudy; Am J Epidemiol 1999 Mar 1; 149(5): 421-8
  3. (36)Hua NW et al: Low iron status and enhanced insulin sensitivity in lacto-ovo vegetarians; Br J Nutr 2001 Oct; 86(4): 515-9