Relationship between transferrin saturation and iron stores in the African American and US Caucasian populations: Analysis of data from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

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In previous analyses of transferrin saturation data in African Americans and Caucasians from the second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES II), subpopulations were found consistent with population genetics for common loci that influence iron metabolism. The goal of this new study was to determine if these transferrin saturation subpopulations have different levels of iron stores. Statistical mixture modeling was applied to transferrin saturation data for African Americans and Caucasians from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), and then the mean serum ferritin concentrations were determined for the transferrin saturation subpopulations that were identified. After adjustment for diurnal variation, 3 subpopulations of transferrin saturation were identified in each racial group. Satisfying Hardy-Weinberg conditions for major locus effects, in both racial groups the sum of the square roots of the proportion with the lowest mean transferrin saturation and the proportion with the highest mean transferrin saturation was approximately 1. When weighted to reflect the US adult population as a whole, these subpopulations of increasing transferrin saturations had progressively increasing mean age-adjusted serum ferritin concentration values in each ethnic grouping as stratified by sex (trend test, P < .002 for all). These results are consistent with the concept that population transferrin saturation subpopulations reflect different levels of storage iron. © 2001 by The American Society of Hematology.

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