Dietary intake of heme iron is associated with ferritin and hemoglobin levels in Dutch blood donors: results from Donor InSight

Tiffany C. Timmer, Rosa de Groot, Judith J. M. Rijnhart, Jeroen Lakerveld, Johannes Brug, Corine W. M. Perenboom, A. Mireille Baart, Femmeke J. Prinsze, Saurabh Zalpuri, C. Ellen van der Schoot, Wim L. A. M. de Kort, Katja van den Hurk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Whole blood donors, especially frequently donating donors, have a risk of iron deficiency and low hemoglobin levels, which may affect their health and eligibility to donate. Lifestyle behaviors, such as dietary iron intake and physical activity, may influence iron stores and thereby hemoglobin levels. We aimed to investigate whether dietary iron intake and questionnaire-based moderate-to-vigorous physical activity were associated with hemoglobin levels, and whether ferritin levels mediated these associations. In Donor InSight-III, a Dutch cohort study of blood and plasma donors, data on heme and non-heme iron intake (mg/day), moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (10 minutes/day), hemoglobin levels (mmol/L) and ferritin levels (μg/L) were available in 2,323 donors (1,074 male). Donors with higher heme iron intakes (regression coefficients (β) in men and women: 0.160 and 0.065 mmol/L higher hemoglobin per 1 mg of heme iron, respectively) and lower non-heme iron intakes (β: -0.014 and -0.017, respectively) had higher hemoglobin levels, adjusted for relevant confounders. Ferritin levels mediated these associations (indirect effect (95% confidence interval) in men and women respectively: 0.074 (0.045; 0.111) and 0.061 (0.030; 0.096) for heme and -0.003 (-0.008;0.001) and -0.008 (-0.013;-0.003) for non-heme). Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity was negatively associated with hemoglobin levels in men only (β: -0.005), but not mediated by ferritin levels. In conclusion, higher heme and lower non-heme iron intake were associated with higher hemoglobin levels in donors, via higher ferritin levels. This indicates that donors with high heme iron intake may be more capable of maintaining iron stores to recover hemoglobin levels after blood donation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2400-2406
Number of pages7
Issue number10
Early online date14 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

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