The use of iron supplements should be a judicious choice, primarily when considering the possible risks deriving from an unjustified treatment. In trained athletes, levels of ferritin between 15 and 30 microg/L are frequently observed. Within this ferritin range, the usefulness of iron supplementation is still controversial. The aim of the present study is to evaluate the clinical usefulness of hepcidin assessment in the analysis of the iron status of young non-anemic athletes. Fifty young athletes were enrolled. The subjects were divided into 4 groups according to their ferritin levels. No statistically significant difference was found regarding hepcidin levels between athletes with ferritin lower than 15 microg/L and those in the 15-30 microg/L range. Similarly, no difference was found between athletes with ferritin higher than 50 microg/L and those in the 30-50 microg/L range. On the contrary, statistically significant differences were found between athletes with ferritin levels ranging from 15 to 30 microg/L and those in the 30-50 microg/L range. The present study suggests that serum ferritin levels below 30 microg/L indicate an asymptomatic iron deficiency status inhibiting hepcidin expression and that 30 microg/L should be considered the ferritin cut-off when considering an iron supplementation in young athletes.
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