Obesity-related hypoferremia is not explained by differences in reported intake of heme and nonheme iron or intake of dietary factors that can affect iron absorption

J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Jan;108(1):145-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2007.10.034.


Hypoferremia is more prevalent in obese than nonobese adults, but the reason for this phenomenon is unknown. To elucidate the role dietary factors play in obesity-related hypoferremia, the intake of heme and nonheme iron and the intake of other dietary factors known to affect iron absorption were compared cross-sectionally from April 2002 to December 2003 in a convenience sample of 207 obese and 177 nonobese adults. Subjects completed 7-day food records, underwent phlebotomy for serum iron measurement, and had body composition assessed by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, during a 21-month period. Data were analyzed by analysis of covariance and multiple linear regression. Serum iron (mean+/-standard deviation) was significantly lower in obese than nonobese individuals (72.0+/-61.7 vs 85.3+/-58.1 microg/dL [12.888+/-11.0443 vs 15.2687+/-10.3999 micromol/L]; P<0.001). The obese cohort reported consuming more animal protein (63.6+/-34.5 vs 55.7+/-32.5 g/day; P<0.001) and more heme iron (3.6+/-2.8 vs 2.7+/-2.6 mg/day; P<0.001). Groups did not differ, however, in total daily iron consumption, including supplements. Obese subjects reported consuming less vitamin C (77.2+/-94.9 vs 91.8+/-89.5 mg/day; P=0.01), which may increase absorption of nonheme iron, and less calcium (766.2+/-665.0 vs 849.0+/-627.2 mg/day; P=0.038), which may decrease nonheme iron absorption, than nonobese subjects. Groups did not significantly differ in intake of other dietary factors that can impact absorption of iron, including phytic acid, oxalic acid, eggs, coffee, tea, zinc, vegetable protein, or copper. After accounting for demographic covariates and dietary factors expected to affect iron absorption, fat mass (P=0.007) remained a statistically significant negative predictor of serum iron. This cross-sectional, exploratory study suggests that obesity-related hypoferremia is not associated with differences in reported intake of heme and nonheme iron or intake of dietary factors that can affect iron absorption.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Calcium, Dietary / pharmacology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet Records
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / drug effects
  • Intestinal Absorption / physiology
  • Iron / blood*
  • Iron / deficiency*
  • Iron, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Iron, Dietary / metabolism
  • Iron, Dietary / pharmacokinetics*
  • Male
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Obesity / blood*
  • Obesity / metabolism


  • Antioxidants
  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Iron, Dietary
  • Iron
  • Ascorbic Acid