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BACKGROUND: The relevance of iron status biomarkers for coronary artery disease (CAD), heart failure (HF), ischemic stroke (IS), and type 2 diabetes (T2D) is uncertain. We compared the observational and Mendelian randomization (MR) analyses of iron status biomarkers and hemoglobin with these diseases. METHODS AND RESULTS: Observational analyses of hemoglobin were compared with genetically predicted hemoglobin with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes in the UK Biobank. Iron biomarkers included transferrin saturation, serum iron, ferritin, and total iron binding capacity. MR analyses assessed associations with CAD (CARDIOGRAMplusC4D [Coronary Artery Disease Genome Wide Replication and Meta-Analysis Plus The Coronary Artery Disease Genetics], n=181 522 cases), HF (HERMES [Heart Failure Molecular Epidemiology for Therapeutic Targets), n=115 150 cases), IS (GIGASTROKE, n=62 100 cases), and T2D (DIAMANTE [Diabetes Meta-Analysis of Trans-Ethnic Association Studies], n=80 154 cases) genome-wide consortia. Observational analyses demonstrated J-shaped associations of hemoglobin with CAD, HF, IS, and T2D. In contrast, MR analyses demonstrated linear positive associations of higher genetically predicted hemoglobin levels with 8% higher risk per 1 SD higher hemoglobin for CAD, 10% to 13% for diabetes, but not with IS or HF in UK Biobank. Bidirectional MR analyses confirmed the causal relevance of iron biomarkers for hemoglobin. Further MR analyses in global consortia demonstrated modest protective effects of iron biomarkers for CAD (7%-14% lower risk for 1 SD higher levels of iron biomarkers), adverse effects for T2D, but no associations with IS or HF. CONCLUSIONS: Higher levels of iron biomarkers were protective for CAD, had adverse effects on T2D, but had no effects on IS or HF. Randomized trials are now required to assess effects of iron supplements on risk of CAD in high-risk older people.

Original publication




Journal article


J Am Heart Assoc

Publication Date



coronary artery disease, heart failure, hemoglobin, iron status, ischemic stroke, type 2 diabetes