PLoS One 2012 20;7(9):e45667. Epub 2012 Sep 20.
Department of Pathology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA.
The incidence and severity of allergic asthma have increased over the last century, particularly in the United States and other developed countries. This time frame was characterized by marked environmental changes, including enhanced hygiene, decreased pathogen exposure, increased exposure to inhaled pollutants, and changes in diet. Although iron is well-known to participate in critical biologic processes such as oxygen transport, energy generation, and host defense, iron deficiency remains common in the United States and world-wide. The purpose of these studies was to determine how dietary iron supplementation affected the severity of allergic inflammation in the lungs, using a classic model of IgE-mediated allergy in mice. Results showed that mice fed an iron-supplemented diet had markedly decreased allergen-induced airway hyperreactivity, eosinophil infiltration, and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, compared with control mice on an unsupplemented diet that generated mild iron deficiency but not anemia. In vitro, iron supplementation decreased mast cell granule content, IgE-triggered degranulation, and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines post-degranulation. Taken together, these studies show that iron supplementation can decrease the severity of allergic inflammation in the lung, potentially via multiple mechanisms that affect mast cell activity. Further studies are indicated to determine the potential of iron supplementation to modulate the clinical severity of allergic diseases in humans.