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Korean J Obes 2014; 23(4): 222-230

Published online December 30, 2014

Copyright © Korean Society for the Study of Obesity.

Regulation of Iron and Its Significance in Obesity and Complications

Yee Kwan Chan, Hye Kyoung Sung, Gary Sweeney*

Department of Biology, York University, Toronto, Canada

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Iron is an essential micronutrient with important roles in many critical physiological processes, especially as a structural component of hemoglobin responsible for oxygen transport. Iron homeostasis is tightly regulated, yet perturbations resulting in iron deficiency as well as iron overload are linked with obesity and associated metabolic abnormalities, such as insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. The endocrine system plays an active role in regulating iron homeostasis and here we have highlighted the importance of lipocalin-2 (Lcn2) and hepcidin. Circulating and adipose tissue expression of the proinflammatory Lcn2 are elevated in obesity and this may be an important, and underestimated, regulator of iron homeostasis. Hepcidin is also markedly elevated during obesity and by inducing the internalization of ferroportin, it leads to an accumulation of tissue iron stores but deficiency in circulating iron, a key feature of functional iron deficiency. Due to the critical importance of iron homeostasis in health and disease, there are currently several well established methods for clinical diagnosis of iron levels and various therapeutics have proven effective in restoring normal iron level in iron deficient or overload conditions. Further explorations in the endocrine regulation of iron homeostasis are warranted to develop a better understanding of the pathophysiological roles of iron in obesity and related metabolic diseases.

Keywords: Iron, Iron deficiency, Iron overload, Lipocalin-2

Fig. 1. An imbalance of iron homeostasis has been observed in obesity. Iron overload (blue box, right) and iron deficiency (ID; blue box, left) have both been reported and the latter can be either absolute or functional. Both iron overload and ID have been associated with development of complications which occur in obesity (green box, top). Various therapeutic strategies commonly used to correct iron overload or ID and restore normal iron homeostasis are shown (orange boxes).
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