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Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a common and disabling condition that occurs in healthy individuals ascending to high altitude. Based on the ability of iron to influence cellular oxygen sensing pathways, we hypothesized that iron supplementation would protect against AMS. To examine this hypothesis, 24 healthy sea-level residents were randomized to receive either intravenous iron(III)-hydroxide sucrose (200 mg) or saline placebo, before ascending rapidly to Cerro de Pasco, Peru (4340 m). The Lake Louise scoring system was used to assess incidence and severity of AMS at sea level and on the first full day at altitude. No significant difference in absolute AMS score was detected between the two groups either at baseline or at high altitude. However, the mean increase in AMS score was 65% smaller in the iron group than in the saline group (p<0.05), and the change in AMS score correlated negatively with the change in ferritin (R=-0.43; p<0.05). Hematocrit and arterial oxygen saturation were unaffected by iron. In conclusion, this preliminary randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial suggests that intravenous iron supplementation may protect against the symptoms of AMS in healthy volunteers.

Original publication




Journal article


High Alt Med Biol

Publication Date





265 - 269


Acute Disease, Adult, Altitude Sickness, Ferric Compounds, Ferritins, Glucaric Acid, Hematocrit, Humans, Injections, Intravenous, Male, Oxygen, Severity of Illness Index, Sucrose, Young Adult