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Blood. 2005 Aug 15;106(4):1441-6. Epub 2005 May 3.

The influence of high-altitude living on body iron.

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Department of Medicine, Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas City, KS 66160, USA.


The quantitative assessment of body iron based on measurements of the serum ferritin and transferrin receptor was used to examine iron status in 800 Bolivian mothers and one of their children younger than 5 years. The survey included populations living at altitudes between 156 to 3750 m. Body iron stores in the mothers averaged 3.88 +/- 4.31 mg/kg (mean +/- 1 SD) and 1.72 +/- 4.53 mg/kg in children. No consistent effect of altitude on body iron was detected in children but body iron stores of 2.77 +/- 0.70 mg/kg (mean +/- 2 standard error [SE]) in women living above 3000 m was reduced by one-third compared with women living at lower altitudes (P < .001). One half of the children younger than 2 years were iron deficient, but iron stores then increased linearly to approach values in their mothers by 4 years of age. When body iron in mothers was compared with that of their children, a striking correlation was observed over the entire spectrum of maternal iron status (r = 0.61, P < .001). This finding could provide the strongest evidence to date of the importance of dietary iron as a determinant of iron status in vulnerable segments of a population.

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