Low ferritin common in young women

A high proportion of young Australian women have iron insufficiency, research shows.

A Monash University study found 34.8% of women, who were not pregnant, breast feeding or using systemic hormonal contraception, had a serum ferritin level below the RCPA and GESA recommended cut-off of 30μg/L. The 736 women included in the study had a mean age of 32 years.

“The factors independently associated with low ferritin included heavy menstrual bleeding, working outside the home and living in NSW, whereas never experiencing heavy bleeding and obesity were protective,” said study authors from Monash’s Women’s Health Research Program.

They noted some of the more novel observations likely warrant further investigation.

“We can only speculate that women working outside the home may have a nutrient intake that differs from that of women not working outside the home.”

“The most provocative finding in our study was the higher prevalence of a serum ferritin below 30μg/L amongst the women living in NSW.”

“Further examination revealed that women from NSW were also more likely to have a ferritin level below 15μg/L compared with women from Queensland and Victoria.”

Pathology reporting differences between the states may be implicated, the researchers said.

“Failure to flag ferritin until it is below 15μg/L effectively normalises ferritin in the 15-29μg/L range, and delays initiation of iron supplementation. In contrast, flagging a ferritin level below 30μg/L prompts a corresponding clinical response, such as the recommendation to increase iron intake.”

They said health care professionals should note the association between low ferritin and heavy bleeding.

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