Iron status in the elderly

Susan J Fairweather-Tait, Anna A Wawer, Rachel Gillings, Amy Jennings, Phyo K Myint

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101 Citations (Scopus)
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Iron deficiency anaemia is prevalent in older age, particularly after the age of 80. Serum ferritin concentrations also decline, although there is no evidence to suggest that changes in iron stores are an inevitable consequence of ageing. Chronic inflammation is a common condition in older people, making the measurement of iron status difficult, and it is likely that elevated levels of circulating hepcidin are responsible for changes in iron metabolism that result in systemic iron depletion. Other contributory factors are poor diet and some medications, such as aspirin. Anaemia in older age has undesirable health outcomes, including increased susceptibility to falling and depression. However, there are concerns about possible adverse effects of iron supplements, either in relation to pro-inflammatory effects in the gut or inappropriate tissue iron deposition. Brain iron levels are increased with age-related degenerative diseases, but it is not known if this is the cause or a consequence of the disease, and genetic factors are likely to play a role. In order to maintain body iron within the normal range a personalised approach is required, taking into account all of the factors that may affect iron metabolism and the available strategies for preventing iron deficiency or overload.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-28
Number of pages7
JournalMechanisms of Ageing and Development
Early online date22 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
The research leading to these results has received funding from the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under grant agreement number 266486 (NU-AGE project entitled “New dietary strategies addressing the specific needs of elderly population for a healthy ageing in Europe”). The clinical trial is registered as NCT01754012 at Anna Wawer was supported by a BBSRC DRINC studentship (BB/G53015X/1).


  • iron status
  • elderly
  • anaemia
  • dietary intake
  • iron stores


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