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tive to the effects of iron overload; therefore, they were not considered in deriving a UL for the general healthy population. Effective and widespread screening for early detection of hemochromatosis is needed so that studies investigating the adverse effects of dietary iron in individuals with this disorder will be useful in setting a UL for this subpopulation.


Gastrointestinal side effects were selected as the critical adverse effects on which to base the UL for iron. Although gastrointestinal distress is not a serious side effect when compared with the possible risk for vascular disease and cancer, the other side effects considered (impaired zinc absorption, increased risk for vascular disease and cancer, and systemic iron overload) did not permit the determination of a UL. Gastrointestinal distress is primarily observed in individuals who have consumed high levels of supplemental iron on an empty stomach. Large doses of iron supplements may inhibit zinc absorption when both are consumed in the fasting state, but zinc absorption is not impaired when supplementary iron is taken with meals. The relationship between iron intake and both vascular disease and cancer is unclear at the present time. With the possible exception of individuals living in Southern Africa who suffer from sub-Saharan iron overload, iron overload has not been shown to result solely from a high dietary iron intake. Moreover, no differences were found in the serum ferritin concentrations between individuals who fell in the lower and upper quartiles for total dietary iron intake in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) (Appendix Table H-5). Heterozygous carriers of the C282Y mutation most commonly associated with hereditary hemochromatosis could be at increased risk for accumulating harmful amounts of iron, but there are no direct observations to confirm this suspicion. Homozygotes and individuals with other iron-loading disorders may not be protected by the UL and are addressed under “Special Considerations”.

Dose-Response Assessment


Data Selection. The data on GI effects following supplemental intakes of iron salts were used to derive a UL for iron for apparently healthy adults.

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