Influence of diurnal variation and fasting on serum iron concentrations in a community-based population

Clin Biochem. 2017 Dec;50(18):1237-1242. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2017.09.018. Epub 2017 Sep 23.


Objectives: Serum iron is an important clinical test to help identify cases of iron deficiency or overload. Fluctuations caused by diurnal variation and diet are thought to influence test results, which may affect clinical patient management. We examined the impact of these preanalytical factors on iron concentrations in a large community-based cohort.

Design and methods: Serum iron concentration, blood collection time, fasting duration, patient age and sex were obtained for community-based clinical testing from the Laboratory Information Service at Calgary Laboratory Services for the period of January 2011 to December 2015.

Results: A total of 276,307 individual test results were obtained. Iron levels were relatively high over a long period from 8:00 to 15:00. Mean concentrations were highest at blood collection times of 11:00 for adult men and 12:00 for adult women and children, however iron levels peaked as late as 15:00 in teenagers. With regard to fasting, iron levels required approximately 5h post-prandial time to return to a baseline, except for children and teenage females where no significant variation was seen until after 11h fasting. After 10h fasting, iron concentrations in all patient groups gradually increased to higher levels compared to earlier fasting times.

Conclusions: Serum iron concentrations remain reasonably stable during most daytime hours for testing purposes. In adults, blood collection after 5 to 9h fasting provides a representative estimate of a patient's iron levels. For patients who have fasted overnight, i.e. ≥12h fasting, clinicians should be aware that iron concentrations may be elevated beyond otherwise usual levels.

Keywords: Blood specimen collection; Diurnal variation; Fasting; Postprandial; Reproducibility of results; Serum iron.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Fasting / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Iron / blood*
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Iron Overload / blood*
  • Male


  • Iron