Serum ferritin levels are associated with insulin resistance in Chinese men and post-menopausal women: the Shanghai Changfeng study

Br J Nutr. 2018 Oct;120(8):863-871. doi: 10.1017/S0007114518002167. Epub 2018 Sep 7.


Associations between ferritin and insulin sensitivity have been described in recent studies. The possible association showed conflicting results by sex and menopausal status. We aimed to investigate the cross-sectional association of ferritin levels with insulin resistance and β-cell function. A total of 2518 participants (1033 men, 235 pre-menopausal women and 1250 post-menopausal women) were enrolled from the Changfeng Study. A standard interview was conducted, as well as anthropometric measurements and laboratory analyses, for each participant. The serum ferritin level was measured using electrochemiluminescence immunoassay. Insulin resistance and β-cell function indices were derived from a homeostasis model assessment. The results showed that the serum ferritin levels were 250·4 (sd 165·2), 94·6 (sd 82·0) and 179·8 (sd 126·6) ng/ml in the men, pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women, respectively. In fully adjusted models (adjusting for age, current smoking, BMI, waist:hip ratio, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, TAG, HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, log urine albumin:creatinine ratio, leucocytes, alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase and γ-glutamyl transpeptidase), serum ferritin concentrations are significantly associated with insulin resistance in men and post-menopausal females, and the null association was observed in pre-menopausal females. Interestingly, an increased β-cell function associated with higher ferritin was observed in post-menopausal participants, but not in male participants. In conclusion, these results suggested that elevated serum ferritin levels were associated with surrogate measures of insulin resistance among the middle-aged and elderly male and post-menopausal women, but not in pre-menopausal women.

Keywords: β-Cell function; ALT alanine transaminase; AST aspartate transaminase; DM diabetes mellitus; GGT γ-glutamyl transpeptidase; HOMA-%B homeostatic model assessment for β-cell function; HOMA-IR homeostasis model assessment index for insulin resistance; SBP systolic blood pressure; UACR urine albumin:creatinine ratio; WHR waist:hip ratio; Ferritin; Glucose homoeostasis; Insulin resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group*
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause / blood


  • Ferritins