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J Nutr. 2005 Aug;135(8):1974-80.

Hemoglobin and ferritin are currently the most efficient indicators of population response to iron interventions: an analysis of nine randomized controlled trials.

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Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA.


Governments and donor agencies have implemented pilot and large-scale iron fortification programs, but there has been no consensus on the best choice of indicators to monitor population response to these interventions. We analyzed data from 9 randomized iron intervention trials to determine which of the following indicator(s) of iron status show the largest response in a population: hemoglobin (Hb), ferritin, transferrin receptor (TfR), zinc protoporphyrin (ZPP), mean cell volume (MCV), transferrin saturation (TS), and total body-iron store. We expressed the change in each indicator in response to the iron intervention in SD units (SDU) for the intervention group compared with the control group. Ferritin increased by > or =0.2 SDU in all trials and was significant in 7. Hb changed by > or =0.2 SDU in 6 and was significant in 5. TfR increased by > or =0.2 SDU in 5 of 8 interventions in which it was measured and was significant in 4. ZPP increased by > or =0.2 SDU and was significant in 3 of 6 interventions. Excluding Hb, the indicator with the largest change in SDU was ferritin in 4 trials, TS in 2 trials, body-iron store in 2 trials, and TfR in 1. In the 2 cases in which body-iron stores showed the largest change, the change in ferritin was nearly as large. Our results suggest that with currently available technologies, ferritin shows larger and more consistent response to iron interventions than ZPP or TfR. We cannot make confident inference about MCV or TS, which were included in only 4 and 2 trials, respectively. It is possible that the optimal indicator(s) may differ with age, sex, and pregnancy. There were too few trials in each age and sex group to allow us to explore this question.

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