A prospective study of plasma ferritin level and incident diabetes: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study

Megan Jehn, Eliseo Guallar, Jeanne M. Clark, David Couper, Bruce B. Duncan, Christie M. Ballantyne, Ron C. Hoogeveen, Z. Leah Harris, James S. Pankow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


The authors performed a case-cohort study nested within the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study to determine the association between plasma ferritin level and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Persons with incident cases of type 2 diabetes diagnosed over an average follow-up period of 7.9 years (n = 599) were compared with a random sample of the cohort (n = 690). After adjustment for age, gender, menopausal status, ethnicity, center, smoking, and alcohol intake, the hazard ratio for diabetes, comparing the fifth quintile of ferritin with the first quintile, was 1.74 (95% confidence interval: 1.14, 2.65; p-trend < 0.001). After further adjustment for body mass index and components of the metabolic syndrome, the hazard ratio was 0.81 (95% confidence interval: 0.49, 1.34; p-trend = 0.87). From a causal perspective, there are two alternative interpretations of these findings. Elevated iron stores, reflected in elevated plasma ferritin levels, may induce baseline metabolic abnormalities that ultimately result in diabetes. Alternatively, elevated ferritin may be just one of several metabolic abnormalities related to the underlying process that ultimately results in diabetes, rather than a causal factor for diabetes. Longitudinal studies with repeated measurements of glucose and iron metabolism parameters are needed to establish the role of iron stores and plasma ferritin in diabetes development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1047-1054
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Cohort studies
  • Diabetes mellitus, type 2
  • Ferritins
  • Incidence
  • Iron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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