Plasma Ferritin Concentrations in the General Population: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of Anthropometric, Metabolic, and Dietary Correlates


Cara Övermöhle, Sabina Waniek, Gerald Rimbach, Katharina Weber, Wolfgang Lieb




The Journal of nutrition




BACKGROUND: Elevated concentrations of ferritin seem to be detrimental to human health while being quite common in the elderly. Data on dietary, anthropometric, and metabolic correlates of circulating ferritin levels in the elderly are scant. OBJECTIVES: We aimed to identify a dietary pattern, anthropometric, and metabolic traits associated with plasma ferritin status in an elderly cohort (n = 460, 57% male, age: 66 ± 12 y) from Northern Germany. METHODS: Plasma ferritin levels were measured by immunoturbidimetry. Reduced rank regression (RRR) yielded a dietary pattern explaining 13% of the variation in circulating ferritin concentrations. Cross-sectional associations of anthropometric and metabolic traits with plasma ferritin concentrations were assessed using multivariable-adjusted linear regression analysis. Restricted cubic spline regression was used to identify nonlinear associations. RESULTS: The RRR pattern was characterized by a high intake of potatoes, certain vegetables, beef, pork, processed meat, fats (frying and animal fat), and beer and a low intake of snacks, representing elements of the traditional German diet. BMI, waist circumference, and CRP were directly, HDL cholesterol inversely, and age nonlinearly associated with plasma ferritin concentrations (all P < 0.05). After additional adjustment for CRP, only the association of ferritin with age remained statistically significant. CONCLUSION: Higher plasma ferritin concentrations were associated with a traditional German dietary pattern. The associations of ferritin with unfavorable anthropometric traits and low HDL cholesterol were rendered statistically nonsignificant upon additional adjustment for chronic systemic inflammation (measured as elevated biomarker of the measurement of inflammation (CRP)), suggesting that these associations were largely driven by the proinflammatory role of ferritin (an acute-phase reactant).