Iron status and dietary iron intake in vegetarians

Adv Clin Exp Med. 2018 Oct;27(10):1383-1389. doi: 10.17219/acem/70527.


Background: Iron is one of the nutrients that require special consideration in a plant-based diet. The widespread belief is that meat is the best source of iron and a vegetarian diet increases the risk of its deficiency. This conviction has been the subject of analysis in a growing number of scientific reports.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess the iron intake and iron metabolism in vegetarians and vegans compared to a control group.

Material and methods: A total of 55 vegetarians and 36 healthy volunteers were studied. The following parameters were measured in serum: iron, ferritin, transferrin, transferrin receptor, and hepcidin-25, using the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) method. The dietary iron intake was assessed by a 24-h dietary recall.

Results: The mean daily intake (DI) of iron was significantly higher in the female vegan group compared to the control group. Iron, hepcidin-25, ferritin and transferrin receptor in serum remained within their normal ranges. The ferritin concentration was significantly decreased and that of transferrin significantly higher in both female groups and in the male vegan group.

Conclusions: The obtained results show that the studied parameters, excluding transferrin, remained within normal ranges. However, the ferritin concentration was significantly decreased in the female vegetarian group and also in both vegan groups. This may indicate low iron storage.

Keywords: ferritin; hepcidin-25; iron; transferrin; vegetarianism.

MeSH terms

  • Diet
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood*
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Iron / administration & dosage*
  • Iron, Dietary*
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Vegetarians*


  • Iron, Dietary
  • Ferritins
  • Iron