Iron status of toddlers, nonpregnant females, and pregnant females in the United States

Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Dec;106(Suppl 6):1640S-1646S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.117.155978. Epub 2017 Oct 25.


Background: Total-body iron stores (TBI), which are calculated from serum ferritin and soluble transferrin receptor concentrations, can be used to assess the iron status of populations in the United States.Objective: This analysis, developed to support workshop discussions, describes the distribution of TBI and the prevalence of iron deficiency (ID) and ID anemia (IDA) among toddlers, nonpregnant females, and pregnant females.Design: We analyzed data from NHANES; toddlers aged 12-23 mo (NHANES 2003-2010), nonpregnant females aged 15-49 y (NHANES 2007-2010), and pregnant females aged 12-49 y (NHANES 1999-2010). We used SAS survey procedures to plot distributions of TBI and produce prevalence estimates of ID and IDA for each target population. All analyses were weighted to account for the complex survey design.Results: According to these data, ID prevalences (± SEs) were 15.1% ± 1.7%, 10.4% ± 0.5%, and 16.3% ± 1.3% in toddlers, nonpregnant females, and pregnant females, respectively. ID prevalence in pregnant females increased significantly with each trimester (5.3% ± 1.5%, 12.7% ± 2.3%, and 27.5% ± 3.5% in the first, second, and third trimesters, respectively). Racial disparities in the prevalence of ID among both nonpregnant and pregnant females exist, with Mexican American and non-Hispanic black females at greater risk of ID than non-Hispanic white females. IDA prevalence was 5.0% ± 0.4% and 2.6% ± 0.7% in nonpregnant and pregnant females, respectively.Conclusions: Available nationally representative data suggest that ID and IDA remain a concern in the United States. Estimates of iron-replete status cannot be made at this time in the absence of established cutoffs for iron repletion based on TBI. The study was registered at as NCT03274726.

Keywords: ferritin; hemoglobin; iron deficiency; soluble transferrin receptor; toddlers; total-body iron; women of reproductive age.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / blood
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / diagnosis
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / epidemiology*
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Iron / blood*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimesters / blood
  • Prevalence
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Iron

Associated data