Despite the increasing worldwide prevalence of obesity and iron deficiency (ID), there are still no guidelines on how to treat and manage obesity-related ID. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to investigate whether weight loss can re-establish iron homoeostasis among subjects with unhealthy weight (overweight [OW] or obesity). PubMed, Medline, Embase, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Library were systemically searched for studies that compared the iron status before and after a weight-loss intervention. A random-effects model was used to calculate the pooled and subgroup weighted mean differences (WMDs) of iron biomarkers. In total, 879 subjects were pooled across 14 studies. Improved haemoglobin was found in longitudinal studies (WMD = 2.50 g/dl, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.88, 4.12 g/dl, I2 = 14%) but not in randomized controlled trials or after being stratified by dietary programmes. Significantly increased transferrin saturation was observed in pooled (WMD = 1.68%, 95% CI: 0.97%, 2.39%, I2 = 44%) and subgroup analyses. A meta-regression showed that changes in the iron status were positively correlated with changes in the body mass index (BMI) and the intervention duration but negatively correlated with the baseline body weight/BMI, age, gender and a standard hypocaloric diet. Our data suggested that in spite of energy restrictions, weight loss may help re-establish iron homoeostasis in people who are OW or obese.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13080
JournalObesity Reviews
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • haemoglobin
  • iron
  • transferrin saturation
  • weight loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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