Increased Level of Serum Hepcidin in Female Adolescent Athletes

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To determine the serum hepcidin concentration and standard hematological parameters in a group of female adolescent athletes, compared with a group of nonathlete females.


A case–control study.


A senior high school for athletes in Gothenburg, Sweden.


All female athletes (70), at the school were offered to take part. Fifty-six athletes accepted. From a random sample of age-matched nonathletes, 71 students were recruited to the control group.

Main Outcome Measures:

Iron deficiency (ID) was determined by levels of serum iron, total iron-binding capacity, transferrin saturation (TS), and ferritin. Serum hepcidin was determined by a mass spectrometry method. All samples were taken at least 12 hours after training.


The main result was the finding of a significantly elevated serum hepcidin level in the athlete group, 4.7 nmol/L compared with 3.3 nmol/L (P < 0.001) in the nonathlete group. In the athlete group, the serum iron concentration was significantly lower, 14.0 μmol/L compared with 17.6 μmol/L (P = 0.003) in the nonathlete group. No difference was found regarding TS, total iron binding capacity, and ferritin. There was no difference in the occurrence of ID or iron deficiency anaemia (IDA).


These findings show an increase in serum hepcidin in a large group of female athletes. The elevated hepcidin levels may affect the iron balance of the athletes, adding to the traditional explanation of dietary intake/iron loss balance.

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