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Iron status and the acute post-exercise hepcidin response in athletes.

  • Peeling, Peter1
  • Sim, Marc1
  • Badenhorst, Claire E1
  • Dawson, Brian1
  • Govus, Andrew D2
  • Abbiss, Chris R2
  • Swinkels, Dorine W3
  • Trinder, Debbie4
  • 1 School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia. , (Australia)
  • 2 Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research, School of Exercise and Health Science, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia, Australia. , (Australia)
  • 3 Department of Laboratory Medicine, Laboratory of Genetic, Endocrine and Metabolic diseases, Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands;, Nijmegen, The Netherlands. , (Netherlands)
  • 4 School of Medicine and Pharmacology, The University of Western Australia, Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia. , (Australia)
Published Article
Public Library of Science
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2014
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093002
PMID: 24667393


This study explored the relationship between serum ferritin and hepcidin in athletes. Baseline serum ferritin levels of 54 athletes from the control trial of five investigations conducted in our laboratory were considered; athletes were grouped according to values <30 μg/L (SF<30), 30-50 μg/L (SF30-50), 50-100 μg/L (SF50-100), or >100 μg/L (SF>100). Data pooling resulted in each athlete completing one of five running sessions: (1) 8 × 3 min at 85% vVO2peak; (2) 5 × 4 min at 90% vVO2peak; (3) 90 min continuous at 75% vVO2peak; (4) 40 min continuous at 75% vVO2peak; (5) 40 min continuous at 65% vVO2peak. Athletes from each running session were represented amongst all four groups; hence, the mean exercise duration and intensity were not different (p>0.05). Venous blood samples were collected pre-, post- and 3 h post-exercise, and were analysed for serum ferritin, iron, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and hepcidin-25. Baseline and post-exercise serum ferritin levels were different between groups (p<0.05). There were no group differences for pre- or post-exercise serum iron or IL-6 (p>0.05). Post-exercise IL-6 was significantly elevated compared to baseline within each group (p<0.05). Pre- and 3 h post-exercise hepcidin-25 was sequentially greater as the groups baseline serum ferritin levels increased (p<0.05). However, post-exercise hepcidin levels were only significantly elevated in three groups (SF30-50, SF50-100, and SF>100; p<0.05). An athlete's iron stores may dictate the baseline hepcidin levels and the magnitude of post-exercise hepcidin response. Low iron stores suppressed post-exercise hepcidin, seemingly overriding any inflammatory-driven increases.

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