The effect of donation activity dwarfs the effect of lifestyle, diet and targeted iron supplementation on blood donor iron stores

PloS One
Muriel LobierMikko Arvas


The iron status of blood donors is a subject of concern for blood establishments. The Finnish Red Cross Blood Service addresses iron loss in blood donors by proposing systematic iron supplementation for demographic at-risk donor groups. We measured blood count, ferritin and soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR) and acquired lifestyle and health information from 2200 blood donors of the FinDonor 10000 cohort. We used modern data analysis methods to estimate iron status and factors affecting it with a special focus on the effects of the blood service's iron supplementation policy. Low ferritin (< 15 μg/L), an indicator of low iron stores, was present in 20.6% of pre-menopausal women, 10.6% of post-menopausal women and 6% of men. Anemia co-occurred with iron deficiency more frequently in pre-menopausal women (21 out of 25 cases) than in men (3/6) or post-menopausal women (1/2). In multivariable regression analyses, lifestyle, dietary, and blood donation factors explained up to 38% of the variance in ferritin levels but only ~10% of the variance in sTfR levels. Days since previous donation were positively associated with ferritin levels in all groups while the number of donations during the past 2 years was negatively associated with...Continue Reading


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