Population Iron Status in Canada: Results from the Canadian Health Measures Survey 2012-2019

J Nutr. 2023 May;153(5):1534-1543. doi: 10.1016/j.tjnut.2023.03.012. Epub 2023 Mar 12.


Background: In Canada, population iron status estimates are dated (2009-2011) and did not consider the presence of inflammation.

Objectives: This study aimed to update iron status estimates in Canada using serum ferrin (SF) and evaluate different correction methods for inflammation based on c-reactive protein (CRP).

Methods: Data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey cycles 3-6 (2012-2019) formed a multiyear, cross-sectional, nationally representative sample (3-79 y) (n = 21,453). WHO cutoffs for SF and hemoglobin were used to estimate iron deficiency (ID), iron deficiency anemia (IDA), anemia, and elevated iron stores. ID was first estimated without considering inflammation. Correction approaches evaluated were excluding individuals with CRP >5 mg/L, using modified SF cutoffs, and regression correction.

Results: Total population uncorrected prevalence estimates were 7% (95% CI: 6.2, 7.9) ID, 6.1% (95% CI: 5.2, 7.0) anemia, and 2.0% (95% CI: 1.6, 2.4) IDA. The uncorrected prevalence of ID was the highest among females of reproductive age with 21.3% (95% CI: 17.6, 25.0) and 18.2% (95% CI: 15.4, 21.1) in 14-18 y and 19-50 y, respectively. Corrected ID estimates were higher than the uncorrected values, independent of the correction approach. Regression correction led to a moderate increase in the prevalence to 10.5% for the total population, whereas applying the higher modified SF cutoffs (70 μg/L for those older than 5 y) led to the largest increases in the prevalence, to 12.6%. Applying modified cutoffs led to implausibly high ID estimates among those with inflammation. Elevated iron stores were identified in 17.2% (95% CI: 16.2, 18.2) of the population, mostly in adult males.

Conclusions: Correction methods for estimating population iron status need further research. Considering the fundamental drawbacks of each method, uncorrected and regression-corrected estimates provide a reasonable range for ID in the Canadian population. Important sex-based differences in iron status and a public health ID problem of moderate magnitude among females of reproductive age are evident in Canada.

Keywords: Canada; anemia; c-reactive protein; ferritin; inflammation; iron deficiency; iron status; population iron assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anemia* / epidemiology
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency* / epidemiology
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Ferritins
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / epidemiology
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Male
  • Prevalence


  • Iron
  • Ferritins
  • C-Reactive Protein