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One Major Side Effect of Not Taking an Iron Supplement, Says New Study

New research suggests that having low iron levels may put you at increased risk of this fatal disease.

There are a number of reasons why it's important to make sure that you're getting enough iron in your diet. Now, a study published in the journal ESC Heart Failure has found another reason to do your best to avoid being deficient in the mineral.

Looking at 12,164 patients with an average age of 59, researchers found that consuming more iron could have been a factor in preventing coronary heart disease in around 10% of cases when it came to those who were diagnosed around middle age.

RELATED: Drinking This May Reduce Fatal Heart Disease Risk, New Study Says

"The analysis suggests that if iron deficiency had been absent at baseline, about 5% of deaths, 12% of cardiovascular deaths, and 11% of new coronary heart disease diagnoses would not have occurred in the following decade," Benedikt Schrage, MD, of the University Heart and Vasculature Centre Hamburg, Germany, and senior author of the study said in a statement.

Indeed, those who were middle-aged with functional iron deficiency "were more likely to develop heart disease and were also more likely to die during the next 13 years," he said.

flat iron steak

Granted, Schrage also pointed out that, because this was an observational study, the researchers cannot conclude that iron deficiency causes heart disease based on the findings alone. Instead, he explained that the findings in this study, as well as related research and resulting evidence, suggest that additional work needs to be done to confirm what's already been found.

"The most important limitation of this study is that this is an observational study, and thus limited by confounding," Edo Paz, MD, vice president of medical at digital primary care company, K Health, and a cardiologist at White Plains Hospital, NY, told Eat This, Not That! 

He explained that iron deficiency may be "highly correlated" with other factors, such as smoking, alcohol use, nutritional status, or socioeconomic status. It's these additional factors that likely predict cardiovascular events—not iron deficiency.

"The authors try to account for potential confounders in their statistical analysis, however, not all confounders can be collected or controlled for," says Paz.

Whether or not iron deficiency is directly related to heart disease and other serious health-related issues, it's still a good idea to make sure that you're getting enough of the nutrient in your diet. For ideas on the types of foods you can add to your meals to make sure you're getting enough iron, be sure to check out The Best Iron-Rich Foods—And Why You Need Them in Your Life!

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Desirée O
Desirée O is a freelance writer who covers lifestyle, food, and nutrition news among other topics. Read more about Desirée