Poster Topical Area: Sports Nutrition

Location: Auditorium

Poster Board Number: 232

P25-001 - Ferritin Associations with Immune Cell Profile and Inflammatory Markers in Cross-Country Athletes

Sunday, Jun 10
8:00 AM – 6:00 PM


We evaluated the effects of different levels of stored iron (ferritin) within normal ranges on immune cell group production and inflammation markers in cross-country athletes.

Research Methodology

Forty-one NCAA division 1 cross-country athletes, ages 18 to 25 years old, had blood drawn at the beginning of their season. Blood was analyzed by complete blood count (CBC) and ferritin levels were assessed by enzymatic spectrophotometry. Participants were divided into two groups, high ferritin, and low ferritin, both within normal clinical ranges. Cytokines IL-1β, IL-6, IL10, GM-CSF, IL-5, and IL-4 were measured at baseline by the magnetic multiplex panel for Luminex TM platform. Cytokines and CBC mean difference were compared between low and high ferritin groups. Pearson correlations were used to determine associations between cell groups and cytokines under low or high ferritin conditions. IBM SPSS statistics 22 software was used to analyze the data.


Participants in the high ferritin group had higher levels of Interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β) (p=0.04) and IL-5 (p=0.05) and eosinophils (p=0.02) when compared to the low ferritin counterparts. In contrast, IL-4 (p=0.04) was significantly higher in the low ferritin group. Moderate-strong correlations were found between eosinophils and cytokines; IL-1β (r=0.64) and IL-5 (r=0.59) in the high ferritin group. Conversely, eosinophils from the low ferritin group correlated strongly with IL-4 (r=0.86).


Eosinophils correlated with different cytokines depending on iron storage status. Previous studies have shown that IL-1β down-regulates ferroportin and iron absorption by increasing hepcidin levels. In contrast, IL-4 has been shown to upregulate transferrin expression and increase iron uptake and mobilization. The increases in eosinophils and IL-5 may be linked to the increases in red blood cell production observed in the high ferritin group. Our results indicate that ferritin levels may influence cytokine release and immune cell profile even under clinically sufficient conditions.

Funding Source: Weber State University, Office of Undergraduate Research long-term grants for the project: "Effects of Cross-Country Training on Inflammatory Cytokines of College Athletes" 2016

CoAuthors: Becky Rose – Weber State University; David Aguilar-Alvarez, PhD – Weber State University

Bess Bauer

Weber State University
Ogden, Utah