Iron status in the elderly

Mech Ageing Dev. 2014 Mar-Apr:136-137:22-8. doi: 10.1016/j.mad.2013.11.005. Epub 2013 Nov 22.


Iron deficiency anaemia is prevalent in older age, particularly after the age of 80. Serum ferritin concentrations also decline, although there is no evidence to suggest that changes in iron stores are an inevitable consequence of ageing. Chronic inflammation is a common condition in older people, making the measurement of iron status difficult, and it is likely that elevated levels of circulating hepcidin are responsible for changes in iron metabolism that result in systemic iron depletion. Other contributory factors are poor diet and some medications, such as aspirin. Anaemia in older age has undesirable health outcomes, including increased susceptibility to falling and depression. However, there are concerns about possible adverse effects of iron supplements, either in relation to pro-inflammatory effects in the gut or inappropriate tissue iron deposition. Brain iron levels are increased with age-related degenerative diseases, but it is not known if this is the cause or a consequence of the disease, and genetic factors are likely to play a role. In order to maintain body iron within the normal range a personalised approach is required, taking into account all of the factors that may affect iron metabolism and the available strategies for preventing iron deficiency or overload.

Trial registration: NCT01754012.

Keywords: Anaemia; Dietary intake; Elderly; Iron status; Iron stores.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / blood*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / complications
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Depression / complications
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iron / blood*
  • Iron / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Receptors, Transferrin / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • Receptors, Transferrin
  • Iron

Associated data