Obesity, bariatric surgery, and iron deficiency: true, true, true and related

Am J Hematol. 2008 May;83(5):403-9. doi: 10.1002/ajh.21106.


Morbid obesity is a health problem that has been shown to be refractory to diet, exercise, and medical treatment. Surgeries designed to promote weight loss, termed bariatric surgery and typically involving a gastric bypass procedure, have recently been implemented to treat obesity with high success rates. However, long-term sequelae can result in micronutrient deficiencies. This review will focus on iron deficiency and its association with obesity and bariatric surgery. Iron deficiency develops after gastric bypass for several reasons including intolerance for red meat, diminished gastric acid secretion, and exclusion of the duodenum from the alimentary tract. Menstruating women, pregnant women, and adolescents may be particularly predisposed toward developing iron deficiency and microcytic anemias after bypass surgery. Preoperative assessment of patients should include a complete hematological work-up, including measurement of iron stores. Postoperatively, oral iron prophylaxis and vitamin C in addition to a multivitamin should be prescribed for bypass patients, especially for vulnerable populations. Once iron deficiency has developed, it may prove refractory to oral treatment, and require parenteral iron, blood transfusions, or surgical interventions. Bariatric surgery patients require lifelong follow-up of hematological and iron parameters since iron deficiency and anemia may develop years after surgery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Achlorhydria / etiology
  • Achlorhydria / metabolism
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / etiology*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / metabolism
  • Bariatric Surgery / adverse effects*
  • Bariatric Surgery / methods
  • Child
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Heme / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Iron / therapeutic use
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Iron, Dietary / pharmacokinetics
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / etiology*
  • Male
  • Meat
  • Obesity, Morbid / complications
  • Obesity, Morbid / metabolism
  • Obesity, Morbid / surgery*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / etiology


  • Iron, Dietary
  • Heme
  • Iron