The amount of ferritin in the blood provides an accurate reflection of the amount of iron stored in the body. Iron is an important component of red blood cells and it is required for their production. Because red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen around the body, iron also helps to keep your energy levels up. That’s because oxygen is vital for the production of energy by the cells in the human body and so iron will help to ensure red blood cells are properly developed and can effectively transport it
This ferritin blood test and helps identify if your iron levels are low which could cause iron deficiency anaemia, the symptoms of which include: extreme tiredness/fatigue, shortness of breath, pale skin, heart palpitations and low mood.
Yes, particularly because low ferritin levels are associated with fatigue and this can lower your tolerance for exercise. Iron is essential for the transport of oxygen around the body and energy metabolism, which makes it vital for completing aerobic exercise. So, low iron levels or iron deficient anaemia can reduce your exercise capacity.
Equally, physical exercise can also be a cause for iron deficiency anaemia, particularly in menstruating female athletes. Some research has shown that iron deficiency is common in endurance athletes. The prevalence among female marathon runners is 28% compared to 11% in the general population*.
*Wouthuyzen-Bakker, M. (2015). Exercise-Induced Anaemia: A Forgotten Cause of Iron Deficiency Anaemia in Young Adults. Br J Gen Pract: 65(634), pp 268-269.
Iron is important for maintaining or boosting mood, especially as it helps deliver oxygen to the brain. Altered iron levels have been linked with modifying emotional behaviours such as mood, anxiety, and depression.
People who have depression often have significantly lower ferritin levels compared to healthy individuals. Studies have shown raising ferritin levels from low to normal reduces the likelihood of depression.
There are also suggestions that iron deficiency can cause feelings of anxiety, probably because of less oxygen being available to the various tissues of the body. Therefore, it is important to understand your ferritin/iron levels as these may be negatively affecting your mood.
“Ferritin is probably a term you don’t come across often, but it is an important biomarker when measuring the level of iron in the body to check for iron deficiency. That’s because ferritin is the main storage protein for iron and gives a more accurate picture of the amount of iron in the body. If your ferritin levels are low and you are also suffering from fatigue, headaches, and low energy levels then you may have iron deficiency. If, on the other hand, your levels are high then this will need further investigation as high levels are associated with a condition called haemochromatosis.”
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Ferritin is a protein present in the body’s cells that’s responsible for storing iron. Stored iron can be used when the body needs it, for example, during the production of red blood cells. Most ferritin is found in the liver as well as the muscles, bone marrow and spleen but it can also be found in the blood. Read more
Since ferritin gives an accurate indication about iron storage within the human body, low levels can signal iron deficiency.
Low ferritin levels can be caused by long-term iron deficiency and can lead to anaemia. It’s often caused by not consuming enough iron in your diet or through blood loss e.g. trauma, heavy periods, or pregnancy.
Finding out early if your ferritin levels are low is important because iron deficiency can make you feel quite unwell and you may struggle to complete daily tasks. Plus, prolonged deficiency can result in anaemia.
High ferritin levels can be caused by a condition called haemochromatosis or iron overload. It is a disorder which results from too much iron being absorbed from the diet and is an inherited condition which usually manifests between the ages of 30 and 60.
Iron overload isn’t the only cause of high ferritin levels. Kidney failure, chronic liver disorders and rheumatoid arthritis are all causes, too. High ferritin levels may also be present in overweight or obese people and can be a sign of inflammation in these individuals rather than iron status.
It is possible to be iron deficient without anaemia. If you have iron deficiency without anaemia then your haemoglobin levels will be normal. However, if you have iron-deficiency anaemia your haemoglobin levels will also be reduced, but both can cause similar symptoms.
One way to improve your result is to include more iron in your diet. There are two types of iron, haem, and non-haem.
Haem iron is found in meat, particularly red meat such as beef, lamb, and pork. Whereas, non-haem iron is present in plant-based sources such as spinach, cabbage, nuts, and seeds. You can increase the absorbance of non-haem iron by pairing food sources with vitamin C and avoiding tea with your meal. Instead, drink tea afterwards or pair a green salad including spinach with a glass of orange juice.
Because iron can affect your energy levels, if you are deficient you may find your exercise capacity drops. Therefore, you may need iron supplementation, but you should consult medical advice before starting a new supplement. If you are training at a high intensity frequently, you will need to ensure you have adequate rest periods to allow your muscles to repair themselves and restrict iron loss.
Ferritin and iron are not the same thing. Ferritin is a protein which stores iron and releases it when the body requires it. Ferritin is mainly found in liver cells with a small amount circulating in the blood. However, the amount that is present in the blood gives an accurate representation of how much iron is stored in your body.
Iron is the mineral stored in ferritin. Iron is important for the production or red blood cells whose main function is to transport oxygen around the body.
A healthy ferritin range in women is 13-150 ug/L whilst in men it is higher at 30-400 ug/L.
Diet is the main contributory factor to low ferritin levels. There are two types of iron available in the diet, haem and non-haem iron. Haem iron is present in meat and is absorbed better by the body compared to non-haem iron which is found in plant-based sources.
Therefore, vegans and vegetarians are at an increased risk of iron deficiency and reduced iron stores because they do not eat meat. Although non-haem iron is the most predominant form in the diet, its absorption is affected by many other dietary aspects. For example, things like phytate in cereals, fibre, tannins in tea and calcium can block the absorption of iron in the intestine. Our data shows that vegan/vegetarians had significantly lower levels than those who do not follow a vegetarian diet.
Exercise can increase the loss of iron, especially endurance and high-intensity types. That’s because red cell turnover is increased in athletes and they can lose more iron during heavy sweating.
Our data found that women are at an increased risk of deficiency whilst female vegans/vegetarians had the lowest ferritin results.
Women can be at risk of iron deficiency due to heavy periods where there may be excessive blood loss.
The symptoms of iron overload may be similar to low ferritin levels but include:
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