Ferritin-guided iron supplementation in whole blood donors: Optimal dosage, donor Response, return, and Efficacy (FORTE)

Current guidelines for iron recovery in whole blood donors in The Netherlands include extended donation intervals for donors with low ferritin levels. Iron supplementation could serve as an alternative, shortening iron store recovery time. However, the effects of iron supplementation on donor health and behavior are largely unknown, and the optimal iron supplementation protocol in terms of frequency and dose has not yet been determined. With the FORTE study we will evaluate the impact of different iron supplementation protocols on iron status-related blood markers and donor health and behavior compared to placebo supplementation.

Whole blood donors with low ferritin levels will be invited to participate in a randomized controlled trial. Participants will follow a supplementation protocol including iron or placebo supplements with varying intake frequencies and iron dosages. Blood samples will be taken to determine ferritin and hemoglobin levels and questionnaires will be completed to determine iron deficiency-related symptoms, lifestyle habits, and general health.      
This will be the first study to investigate the effect of iron supplementation on a multitude of outcomes, including measures of compliance, side effects, and iron deficiency related symptoms. The results of the study will serve as scientific evidence to guide the debate if, and if shown effective, how, iron supplementation could be implemented as a standard policy for whole blood donors with low ferritin levels. 

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