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Abstract

Hematologic indices and iron balance data were obtained on 22 normal male volunteers who were subjected to a mean +/- SD phlebotomy of 164 +/- 34 ml whole blood/mo while living in a controlled environment. Over an average stay of 5 mo, volunteers did not develop anemia, but did display a reduction in iron stores that was quantitated by measurement of serum ferritin and iron balance. The percent saturation of transferrin and the usual erythrocyte parameters did not reflect changes in iron status. Loss of iron, which was calculated from quantitative phlebotomy and iron balance data, showed that a decrease of 1 ng of serum ferritin represented a loss of 4.5 +/- 5.3 mg of iron in 10 men whose initial serum ferritins were greater than 25 ng/ml, and 25.3 +/- 58.8 mg of iron in 7 men whose initial serum ferritins were less than 25 ng/ml. The period required for 3 volunteers who consumed a self-selected mixed diet at home to replace their depleted iron stores to prephlebotomy levels was about 4.5 mo. The sensitivity of serum ferritin as an index of iron stores was affirmed. In addition it was found that normal men who were consuming a mixed diet containing about 15 mg of iron daily and losing blood at a rate of 164 +/- 34 ml/mo did not increase their iron absorption sufficiently to compensate for the iron loss.