Osteoporosis International

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 549–555 | Cite as

Association between iron overload and osteoporosis in patients with hereditary hemochromatosis

  • L. Valenti
  • M. Varenna
  • A. L. Fracanzani
  • V. Rossi
  • S. FargionEmail author
  • L. Sinigaglia
Original Article



In 87 patients with hereditary hemochromatosis, osteoporosis was detected in 25%, and osteopenia in 41%. Bone mineral density was independently associated with BMI, ALP levels, hypogonadism/menopause, and the amount of iron removed to reach depletion, but not with cirrhosis. Osteoporosis is influenced by iron overload in hemochromatosis.


To analyze prevalence, clinical characteristics and genetic background associated with osteoporosis in a retrospective study in Italian patients with hereditary hemochromatosis (HHC).


In 87 consecutive patients with HHC, bone mineral density was systematically evaluated by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry of the lumbar spine (n = 87) and femoral neck (n = 66).


Osteoporosis was detected in 22 (25.3%), and osteopenia in 36 (41.4%) patients. Mean Z scores were −0.92 ± 1.42 at lumbar spine and −0.35 ± 1.41 at femoral neck. Lumbar spine T-score was independently associated with total ALP (p = 0.002), hypogonadism/menopause (p = 0.026), and iron overload (p = 0.033 for ferritin and p = 0.017 for iron removed). We observed a borderline significance for BMI (p = 0.069) and smoking status (p = 0.086). Lumbar spine osteoporosis was independently associated with lower BMI (OR 0.73, 95% CI 0.54–0.94), total ALP (OR 1.17, 95% CI 1–1.39 per 10 unit increase) and the amount of iron removed (OR 1.53, 95% CI 1–2.5 per 5 g increase). HFE genotypes did not differ between patients with and without osteoporosis.


Osteoporosis is observed in a quarter of unselected patients with HHC, independently of the genetic background, and is associated with ALP, hypogonadism, body weight, and severity of iron overload.


Bone mineral density Hemochromatosis Human HFE protein Iron overload Osteoporosis 


Acknowledgements and Funding

This paper was supported by COFIN 2004, FIRST 2004, FIRST 2005, Ricerca Corrente Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico Mangiagalli Regina Elena IRCCS 2004, 2005, 2006. Centro Universitario per lo Studio e la Cura delle Malattie Metaboliche del Fegato.

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© International Osteoporosis Foundation and National Osteoporosis Foundation 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Valenti
    • 1
  • M. Varenna
    • 2
  • A. L. Fracanzani
    • 1
  • V. Rossi
    • 2
  • S. Fargion
    • 1
    Email author
  • L. Sinigaglia
    • 2
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Medicina Interna, UO Medicina Interna IB, Padiglione Granelli, Universita degli Studi di MilanoOspedale Policlinico Mangialli e Regina Elena Fondazione IRCCSMilanItaly
  2. 2.Department of RheumatologyGaetano Pini InstituteMilanItaly

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