UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Daily Oral Supplementation with 60 mg of Elemental Iron for 12 Weeks Alters Blood Mitochondrial DNA Content, but Not Leukocyte Telomere Length in Cambodian Women Steele, Shannon; Hsieh, Anthony Y. Y.; Gadawski, Izabella; Kroeun, Hou; Barr, Susan I.; Devlin, Angela; Côté, Hélène C. F.; Karakochuk, Crystal D.


There is limited evidence regarding the potential risk of untargeted iron supplementation, especially among individuals who are iron-replete or have genetic hemoglobinopathies. Excess iron exposure can increase the production of reactive oxygen species, which can lead to cellular damage. We evaluated the effect of daily oral supplementation on relative leukocyte telomere length (rLTL) and blood mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) content in non-pregnant Cambodian women (18–45 years) who received 60 mg of elemental iron as ferrous sulfate (n = 190) or a placebo (n = 186) for 12 weeks. Buffy coat rLTL and mtDNA content were quantified by monochrome multiplex quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Generalized linear mixed-effects models were used to predict the absolute and percent change in rLTL and mtDNA content after 12 weeks. Iron supplementation was not associated with an absolute or percent change in rLTL after 12 weeks compared with placebo (ß-coefficient: −0.04 [95% CI: −0.16, 0.08]; p = 0.50 and ß-coefficient: −0.96 [95% CI: −2.69, 0.77]; p = 0.28, respectively). However, iron supplementation was associated with a smaller absolute and percent increase in mtDNA content after 12 weeks compared with placebo (ß-coefficient: −11 [95% CI: −20, −2]; p = 0.02 and ß-coefficient: −11 [95% CI: −20, −1]; p= 0.02, respectively). Thus, daily oral iron supplementation for 12 weeks was associated with altered mitochondrial homeostasis in our study sample. More research is needed to understand the risk of iron exposure and the biological consequences of altered mitochondrial homeostasis in order to inform the safety of the current global supplementation policy.

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