Danish researchers report that high levels of transferrin may contribute to the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Transferrin is a glycoprotein that binds with iron and transfers it to cells.
The researchers at the University of Copenhagen were looking to expand on previous studies indicating that higher levels of stored and ingested iron are associated with a higher risk of type 2. In their experiments on mice, they found that removing transferrin from genetically modified animals protected them against the onset of diabetes. They also found that elevated transferrin was associated with a two- to threefold increased risk of developing type 1 or type 2.
High iron levels have also been associated with other health problems, such as kidney disease, vascular problems, and atherosclerosis. While the Danish researchers say that people with prediabetes may want to discuss their iron intake with their physician, more studies are needed before scientists can definitely advise against taking certain amounts or iron or recommending ways to lower the amount of iron in the bloodstream.