Blood Journal
Leading the way in experimental and clinical research in hematology

Estimates of iron sufficiency in the US population

  1. JD Cook,
  2. BS Skikne,
  3. SR Lynch, and
  4. ME Reusser


Traditionally the iron status of a population is assessed by estimating the prevalence of iron deficiency anemia. This approach is inadequate in countries where the diet is heavily fortified with iron because it conveys no information about the iron-replete segment of the population. In the present study iron status of a US adult population was evaluated using data collected in the second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES II). Body iron was estimated in each of 2,829 individuals from measurements of hemoglobin concentration, serum ferritin, transferrin saturation, and erythrocyte protoporphyrin. When individuals between 18 and 64 years of age were divided on the basis of sex and menstrual status, body iron reserves were normally distributed and averaged 309 mg in women 18 to 44 years, 608 mg in women 45 to 64 years, and 776 mg in men 18 to 64 years. The dispersion of storage iron in these groups was similar, with standard deviations of 346, 372, and 313 mg, respectively. The prevalence of iron deficiency anemia was surprisingly low, ranging from only 0.2% in adult men to 2.6% and 1.9% in pre- and postmenopausal women, respectively. Epidemiologic methods that examine iron status in the entire population assume importance in light of evidence that in certain segments of the US population, iron deficiency anemia is now less common than the homozygous state for hereditary hemochromatosis.