Thursday, February 16, 2017

Iron in the Blood

Males of average height have about 4 grams of iron in their body, females about 3.5 grams; children will usually have 3 grams or less. These 3-4 grams are distributed throughout the body in hemoglobin, tissues, muscles, bone marrow, blood proteins, enzymes, ferritin, hemosiderin, and transport in plasma.

What should be the iron level?

According to the Mayo Clinic, normal hematocrit levels, or the volume of red blood cells to the total volume of blood, should range between 34.9 and 44.5 percent in women; in men, healthy levels are from 38.8 to 50 percent. Low iron levels usually indicate anemia.

What causes iron overload in the blood?

Blood loss means iron loss. Iron overload disorder can be either: Passed on genetically; this is known as primary hemochromatosis, hereditary hemochromatosis, or classic hemochromatosis. The result of some condition, such as chronic liver disease, that causes the body to absorb excessive amounts of iron
What causes high iron levels?

High blood iron is usually the result of hemochromatosis, a disease in which the body absorbs too much iron from the diet. Secondary hemochromatosis is a complication arising from certain diseases, and can also result when multiple blood transfusions are used in treating certain diseases.

What is it called when you have too much iron in your blood?

Hemochromatosis is a condition that causes the body to absorb and store too much iron. Some iron is essential for carrying oxygen in the blood to organs and tissues, but too much is toxic. Hemochromatosis is a common cause of iron overload.

(From the Lilly Laboratory for Clinical Research, Indianapolis City
Hospital, Indianapolis)
(Received for publication, November 15, 1933)

During the course of an investigation involving the determination
of blood iron values in normal subjects, it became evident
that the results were consistently higher than the figures recently
reported for human blood by Murphy, Lynch, and Howard (1)
and Reich and Tiedemann (2). Furthermore, hemoglobin values
calculated on the basis of their iron determinations differed considerably
from values obtained by them, with the Sahli and Newcomer
methods. Oxygen capacity figures calculated from their
iron determinations were also lower than those generally considered
normal in the literature. Since the oxygen capacity
method is the standard method of determining the hemoglobin
content of blood, simultaneous determinations of oxygen capacity
by the Van Slyke and Neil1 method (3) and iron determinations
by the Kennedy method (4) were made on the blood of a series of
normal men and women. Since the completion of this work,
Sachs, Levine, and Appelsis (5), using the Wong method (6), have
reported iron values for the blood of normal men that are in accord
with the data recorded in this paper, although their figures for
normal women are definitely lower.

In order to determine whether the discrepancies in the iron
values quoted in the papers above might be explained by the
methods used for estimating t,he iron content, a comparison was
also made between the Kennedy and the Wong methods.


The subjects used for these experiments-doctors, nurses, students,

and technicians-were all apparently normal individuals between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Samples were obtained for
analysis by withdrawing approximately 10 cc. of venous blood
from the large arm vein of each individual and transferring the
blood to a bottle containing iron-free sodium oxalate. All collections
were made between the hours of 8.30 a.m. and 10 a.m.
during the months of July and August.
Results of Analyses for Iron Content and Oxygen Capacity on Blood of Ten Normal Men and Ten Normal Women with Oxygen Capacity Also Calculated from Total Iron Content and Protein Iron Content

The oxygen capacity was then determined by the method of
Van Slyke and Neil1 (3). Iron was determined by the Kennedy
method (4). The blood was digested without difficulty in 25
X 200 mm. Pyrex glass test-tubes instead of the Kjeldahl flasks
recommended by Kennedy.

In comparing the Kennedy and Wong methods, the same pipette
was used to measure both blood samples, 1 cc. samples being used
for both methods. We found better results could be obtained in
the Wong method when 4 cc. of distilled water were added to the
blood before the concentrated sulfuric acid was added. 

The red blood cell counts were made on the samples obtained
from the arm vein. Standard pipettes and counting chambers
were used.


The results of the analyses are shown in Table I. The iron
values are converted into oxygen capacity figures by multiplying


Results of Determination of Iron in Whole Blood of Normal Individuals by

Kennedy and Wong Methods

the mg. per cent of iron by 0.400. (Since 1 mole of oxygen occupies
22,400 cc. at 0”, 760 mm., the molal ratio Fe:O, = 1: 1
corresponds to a ratio of gm. of Fe to cc. of O2 = 56:22,400 =
1:400, or mg. of Fe to cc. of O2 = 1:O .400.) McIntosh (7) has
shown that normal blood contains 1.02 mg. .of non-protein iron
per 100 cc. Therefore we have also converted the iron values to
oxygen capacity after subtracting this figure from the total iron


In Table II are shown the mg. of iron in 100 cc. of the same blood
analyzed by the Kennedy and Wong methods.


The data presented in this paper show that there is a close agreement
between the hemoglobin cont’ent of normal human blood as
determined by the oxygen capacity method and the Kennedy iron
method. Therefore, the determination of iron offers an easy
means of estimating the hemoglobin content of blood or of standardizing
calorimetric methods of estimating hemoglobin. If we
add the figures of eight of the cases from Table II, which were not
included in Table I, the average iron content of the blood of eighteen
normal men, determined by the Kennedy method, varied from
49.3 to 57.2 mg. per 100 cc., with an average of 52.5 mg. per 100 cc.
of blood. For the ten normal women the iron content varied from
42.0 to 49.8 mg. per 100 cc. of blood, with an average of 45.8 mg.

In Table III the results of the recent iron determinations in
human blood and the oxygen capacity and hemoglobin figures
calculated from the iron content are compared to the hemoglobin
figures recorded in the literature for normal men and women.
The data of Reich and Tiedemann are not included in Table III
because their normals can hardly be called that in the strict sense
of the word. The iron values reported in this paper agree with
the values of hemoglobin reported on larger series of cases by
Haden (8), Osgood (9), and Wintrobe and Miller (10). The results
of Murphy and coworkers are definitely lower than would be
expected for blood with normal hemoglobin content.

As shown in Table II, the Kennedy method gave distinctly
higher results than the Wong method. Although the simplicity
of the Wong method recommends its use, in our experience the
Kennedy method proved to be more satisfactory.


1. There is a close agreement between t.he hemoglobin content
of blood as determined by its iron content and oxygen capacity.
2. The blood iron content of eighteen normal men, determined
by the Kennedy method, varied from 49.3 to 57.2 mg. per 100 cc.,

with an average of 52.5 mg. 


Results of Recent Iron Determinations in Ilunlan Blood, and Oxygen Capacity
and Hemoglobin Values, Calculated from Iron Content, and Normal
Values oj Hemoglobin and Oxygen Capacity As Recorded in
Recent Literature

3. The blood iron content of ten normal women varied from 12.0
to 49.8 mg. per 100 cc., with an average of 45.8 mg.
4. Higher iron values were obtained with the Kennedy method
than with the Wong method.
The authors wish to thank -Miss Dorothy Schaefer, Miss Betty
Goss, and l&L-. Clyde Ford for their assistance. 

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