Serum hepcidin is significantly associated with iron absorption from food and supplemental sources in healthy young women

Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Feb;89(2):533-8. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26589. Epub 2008 Dec 10.


Background: Hepcidin is a key regulator of iron homeostasis, but to date no studies have examined the effect of hepcidin on iron absorption in humans.

Objective: Our objective was to assess relations between both serum hepcidin and serum prohepcidin with nonheme-iron absorption in the presence and absence of food with the use of dual stable-iron-isotope techniques.

Design: The study group included 18 healthy nonpregnant women. Women received in random order a supplemental iron source (7.6 mg FeSO4 providing 0.9 mg 58Fe as FeSO4) and 6.8 mg 57Fe ferrous sulfate tracer administered with a nonheme food source [orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP): 1.4 mg native Fe]. Iron absorption was determined by analyzing blood samples taken 14 d after dosing with the use of magnetic sector thermal ionization mass spectrometry. Serum hepcidin was assessed by a new competitive serum enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) specific for the refolded, mature 25-amino acid form, and serum prohepcidin was assessed by an ELISA specific for amino acids 28-47 of the hepcidin prohormone.

Results: In these women, iron absorption averaged 14.71 +/- 10.7% from the supplemental iron compared with 3.63 +/- 6.5% from the OFSP. Absorption of nonheme iron assessed in the presence (P = 0.038) and absence (P = 0.0296) of food was significantly associated with serum hepcidin but was not significantly related to serum prohepcidin.

Conclusion: Serum hepcidin, but not prohepcidin, was inversely associated with iron absorption from supplemental and food-based nonheme-iron sources in iron-replete healthy women.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / blood*
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / pharmacology
  • Biological Availability
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Hepcidins
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / drug effects*
  • Ipomoea batatas / chemistry
  • Iron Compounds / blood
  • Iron Compounds / metabolism
  • Iron Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Iron Isotopes
  • Iron, Dietary / blood
  • Iron, Dietary / metabolism
  • Iron, Dietary / pharmacokinetics*
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Nutritional Status
  • Premenopause
  • Protein Precursors / blood*
  • Protein Precursors / pharmacology
  • Young Adult


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • HAMP protein, human
  • Hemoglobins
  • Hepcidins
  • Iron Compounds
  • Iron Isotopes
  • Iron, Dietary
  • Protein Precursors
  • Ferritins