, Volume 53, Issue 3, pp 885-895
Date: 06 Oct 2013

Diet-induced obese rats have higher iron requirements and are more vulnerable to iron deficiency

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Since obesity is associated with poorer iron status, the effects of diet-induced obesity on iron status and iron-regulatory pathways were examined.


Weanling male diet-induced obese sensitive (n = 12/diet group) and resistant (n = 12/diet group) rats were fed one of four high-fat, high-energy diets supplemented with 5 (5Fe, low), 15 (15Fe, marginal), 35 (35Fe, normal) or 70 (70Fe, high) mg iron/kg diet for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, rats in each diet group were categorised as obese (>19 %) or lean (<17 %) based on percentage body fat.


Obese rats gained more weight, had larger total lean mass, consumed more food and showed greater feed efficiency compared with lean rats. Obese rats fed the 5Fe and 15Fe diets had poorer iron status than lean rats fed the same diet. Obese 5Fe rats had lower serum iron and more severe iron-deficiency anaemia. Obese 15Fe rats had lower mean corpuscular haemoglobin and liver iron concentrations. Hepcidin mRNA expression in liver and adipose tissue was similar for obese and lean rats. Iron concentration and content of the iron transporters divalent metal transporter 1 and ferroportin 1 in duodenal mucosa were also similar.


Obese rats that were larger, regardless of adiposity, had higher iron requirements compared with lean rats that appeared independent of hepcidin, inflammation and intestinal iron absorption. Higher iron requirements may have resulted from larger accretion of body mass and blood volume. Greater food consumption did not compensate for the higher iron needs, indicating increased susceptibility to iron deficiency.