Iron status in the elderly: a review of recent evidence

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A comprehensive literature review of iron status in the elderly was undertaken in order to update a previous review (Fairweather-Tait et al, 2014); 138 papers were retrieved that described research on the magnitude of the problem, aetiology and age-related physiological changes that may affect iron status, novel strategies for assessing iron status with concurrent health conditions, hepcidin, lifestyle factors, iron supplements, iron status and health outcomes (bone mineral density, frailty, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney failure, cancer, cardiovascular, and neurodegenerative diseases). Each section concludes with key points from the relevant papers. The overall findings were that disturbed iron metabolism plays a major role in a large number of conditions associated with old age. Correction of iron deficiency/overload may improve disease prognosis, but diagnosis of iron deficiency requires appropriate cut-offs for biomarkers of iron status in elderly men and women to be agreed. Iron deficiency (with or without anemia), anemia of inflammation, and anemia of chronic disease are all widespread in the elderly and, once identified, should be investigated further as they are often indicative of underlying disease. Management options should be reviewed and updated, and novel therapies, which show potential for treating anemia of inflammation or chronic disease, should be considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-73
JournalMechanisms of Ageing and Development
Early online date21 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Iron status
  • elderly
  • iron deficiency
  • anemia

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