Food and Behaviour Research

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Obesity as an emerging risk factor for iron deficiency.

Aigner E, Feldman A, Datz C. (2014) Nutrients 2014 Sep 11 6(9) 3587-3600 doi: 10.3390/nu6093587.

Web URL: View this and related abstract via PubMed here. Free full text is available online.


Iron homeostasis is affected by obesity and obesity-related insulin resistance in a many-facetted fashion.

On one hand, iron deficiency and anemia are frequent findings in subjects with progressed stages of obesity. This phenomenon has been well studied in obese adolescents, women and subjects undergoing bariatric surgery.

On the other hand, hyperferritinemia with normal or mildly elevated transferrin saturation is observed in approximately one-third of patients with metabolic syndrome (MetS) or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This constellation has been named the "dysmetabolic iron overload syndrome (DIOS)".

Both elevated body iron stores and iron deficiency are detrimental to health and to the course of obesity-related conditions. Iron deficiency and anemia may impair mitochondrial and cellular energy homeostasis and further increase inactivity and fatigue of obese subjects. Obesity-associated inflammation is tightly linked to iron deficiency and involves impaired duodenal iron absorption associated with low expression of duodenal ferroportin (FPN) along with elevated hepcidin concentrations.

This review summarizes the current understanding of the dysregulation of iron homeostasis in obesity.