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Title: Markers of iron status and cardiometabolic disease risk : an exploration of the association based on cross-sectional and prospective studies in multiple populations
Author: Suarez Ortegon, Milton Fabian
ISNI:       0000 0004 7429 868X
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2017
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The aim of this thesis is to contribute to the understanding of iron metabolism, as a factor associated with cardiometabolic risk, by undertaking secondary data analyses. The objectives were to identify gaps in existing knowledge in terms of populations studied and alternative iron markers, and to attempt to fill the gaps with additional analyses and interpretation. Serum ferritin was the most widely available measure of iron status but the role of serum transferrin and soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR) levels was considered where available. I have taken a life-course approach with analyses in childhood and adulthood, and have included both intermediate factors such as the metabolic syndrome (MetS), and disease diagnoses of diabetes and cardiovascular disease as outcomes. Chapter one presents a review of empirical research literature on the relationship between iron metabolism and cardiometabolic risk, concepts surrounding iron markers and the study outcomes. This chapter also describes the gaps in understanding the iron-cardiometabolic risk relationship, which are subsequently explored in chapters two to six. Chapter two explores the link between serum ferritin and transferrin and MetS in cross-sectional and prospective studies of 725 Spanish children and 567 Chilean adolescents. I found associations between both ends of the ferritin distribution and MetS or glucose metabolism markers in different paediatric populations. For instance, whereas in the Spanish children there was a decrease of 0.02 SD units in the change of MetS score over time for every SD unit increase in ferritin, in the Chilean male adolescents being in the highest tertile of ferritin (v. the lowest) was associated with an increase of 0.25 SD units of MetS score. Furthermore, sustained high ferritin levels at various time points and gradual increase of ferritin during childhood were associated with higher MetS score in adolescence. The third chapter describes the association between serum ferritin status and MetS in adults in two cross-sectional studies of Scottish populations (2,047 individuals from Shetland Islands and 8,563 subjects from the Scottish Health Surveys (SHeS) 1995- 1998). I also examined the overall association between ferritin, MetS and each MetS component in adults, by conducting a meta-analysis and investigating potential relevant sources of heterogeneity for the association. Interestingly, ferritin levels were positively associated with MetS in the Scottish populations, but the association was not independent of the effect of covariates, mainly body mass index (BMI) and transaminase levels [Men Odds ratio (OR) 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.43(0.83- 2.46); Postmenopausal women OR (95%CI) 1.09(0.62-1.90); Premenopausal women OR (95%CI) 1.02(0.42-2.46), P > 0.05]. The meta-analysis supported this finding by describing hepatic injury markers and BMI as the major attenuating factors of the ferritin-MetS association. Chapter four investigates the association between sTfR or ferritin, and MetS in 725 Croatian adults in a cross-sectional study. There was no evidence of an association between sTfR and MetS [Men OR (95%CI) 1.35(0.90-2.02); Postmenopausal women OR (95%CI) 0.73(0.47-1.15); Premenopausal women OR (95%CI) 0.87(0.66-1.17), P > 0.05]. In contrast serum ferritin, was positively and independently associated with MetS in men and postmenopausal women (P < 0.05) [Men OR (95%CI) 1.78(1.31- 2.42); Postmenopausal women OR (95%CI) 1.71(1.12-2.62); Premenopausal women OR (95%CI) 1.24(0.85-1.80)]. These contrasting results suggest that different iron markers reflect different physiological processes other than iron metabolism. Chapter five evaluates the longitudinal association between serum ferritin and several cardiometabolic disease outcomes (CMDs) in the nationally representative SHeS 1995 and 1998 (n = 6,497). I found an independent positive longitudinal association between ferritin and cerebrovascular disease (CEVD), which was strengthened by using higher cut-points for increased ferritin [higher v. lowest sextile fully adjusted Hazard ratio(HR) 95%CI 2.08 (1.09-3.94), P=0.024], and a not significant association with coronary heart disease (CHD) after adjustment for covariates. My analyses confirmed the widely established association with type 2 diabetes (T2D) [whole sample fully adjusted HR 95% CI 1.59(1.10-2.34), P=0.006], even with serum ferritin within the normal range. The above set of observations confirm ferritin as biomarker mainly related to the development of T2D and identifies the need to investigate the association between ferritin and CEVD in other populations. Chapter six investigates whether ferritin is associated with risk for cardiovascular complications among people with T2D using cross-sectional study designs in two populations with differing baseline cardiovascular risk (Spanish study SIDIAP n=38,617) and (Edinburgh Type 2 Diabetes Study (ET2DS) n= 821) with additional analysis of follow-up data for ET2DS. Interestingly, ferritin levels were negatively associated with prevalence of cardiovascular disease, mainly CHD, in people with T2D in both studies [ET2DS OR (95%CI): 0.80(0.67-0.96), P=0.020; SIDIAP study: 0.85(0.83-0.88), P < 0.001). Ferritin was also negatively associated with incident cardiovascular disease in ET2DS: HR 95% CI: 0.39(0.16-0.93), P=0.035. Therefore, the association between iron status and CMD risk in people with T2D appears to differ from that in general populations in which a positive association has been more commonly described. In conclusion, serum ferritin is associated with cardiometabolic risk in different ways in a variety of populations. Inconsistent associations for other iron markers suggest that iron biomarkers reflect factors other than iron homeostasis that influence cardiometabolic risk. The association between iron markers and MetS appears to differ between populations. This thesis illustrates the complex relationship between iron metabolism markers, MetS and CMD, and identifies the need for further research on the topic in order to extend knowledge about pathophysiology and the potential for measures of iron status as biomarkers for CMD.
Supervisor: Wild, Sarah ; McLachlan, Stela Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: iron ; metabolic syndrome ; ferritin ; soluble transferrin receptor ; diabetes ; ferritin levels