A team from Imperial College London analysed the genetic data of more than 48,000 people and said they were surprised to find higher iron levels were associated with an elevated risk of cardioembolic stroke.
These strokes are typically caused by blood clots travelling from the heart to the brain, blocking blood and oxygen supply.
This yielded evidence suggesting that those with ‘genetically determined higher’ iron levels were at greater risk of having a stroke, they note in a report on the study that now features in the journal Stroke.
In addition, it seems ‘that this effect is driven by an increased risk of cardioembolic stroke,’ a type of stroke in which blood in a vessel supplying the brain is blocked due to an obstruction that has travelled from the heart.
The study authors caution, however, that people should not use these findings as a reason to try to alter their iron levels, and they call for further research to confirm their results and also find out why iron may have this effect.
The findings, published in the journal Stroke, follow previous research suggesting iron may protect against stroke and coronary artery disease.
Lead author Dr Dipender Gill from Imperial’s School of Public Health the result was ‘unexpected.’
“It was previously thought higher iron levels might protect against stroke but this study investigates this further to find that iron may actually increase the risk of some types of stroke,” he said.
“Iron is a vital nutrient, essential for a number of biological processes in the body, including transporting oxygen.
“However, previous research has suggested that in some cases iron can actual trigger blood to form a clot. This now needs further investigation.”
Using genetic data from public databases, the researchers searched through the data of more than 48,000 people to work out the impact of genetics on iron status.
They focused on three points in the genome where a single “letter” difference in the DNA – called a single nucleotide polymorphism – can slightly increase or reduce a person’s iron status.
When they searched for these same SNPs in data sets, including more than 60,000 stroke patients, they found those with the SNPs for higher iron status had a higher risk of cardioembolic stroke.
Source: Perth Now