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Forums: Main Kickstart Forum: Ferritin levels
Created on: 04/15/14 10:24 PM Views: 911 Replies: 2
Ferritin levels
Posted Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 10:24 PM

I'm hoping Susan can weigh in on this one: I've read that ferritin levels can often be lower in vegans than in the rest of the population, and that this is normal (and that this can actually be protective against certain diseases).

My question is this: how low would be considered too low (even by vegan standards)? For example, would a ferritin level that's consistently around 17 be considered way too low, if hemoglobin levels are normal?

RE: Ferritin levels
Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 9:28 AM

That's true. Typical vegans consume more iron than meat eaters, but it's the kind of iron that does not store as readily (non-heme). Non-heme iron (commonly found in plants) stores on an as needed basis, whereas heme iron (from blood) stores regardless of whether you need it or not. Non-heme iron is easy to manipulate too. Meaning, you can enhance or discourage its absorbability based on other things you consume. For example, pairing sources of vitamin C, like orange slices or lemon juice, with spinach will help you absorb more iron from the spinach.

Lower iron is associated with reduced risk for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. It's a preferable place to be. More than you ever wanted to know here: http://pcrm.org/health/cancer-resources/diet-cancer/nutrition/iron-the-double-edged-sword.

I would say not to worry about it unless you are feeling tired or unless a physician diagnoses you with anemia.

Susan Levin, MS, RD
PCRM Director of Nutrition Education

RE: Ferritin levels
Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 7:15 PM

Thanks, Susan! If ferritin levels have been consistently low for a long time, and haven't changed even after 3 months of supplementing with non-heme iron supplements (on the recommendation of a doctor), I'm guessing it isn't a case of increasing loss of - or malabsorption of - iron (since the levels have stayed pretty much exactly the same - no increase or decrease).

Then again, I'm sure most doctors probably aren't aware of those differences between iron levels in vegans and the rest of the population.

And thanks for the link - that's good info!

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