What the heck is Transferrin?


Transferrin is the main protein in the blood that binds to iron and transports it throughout the body. A transferrin test directly measures the level in the blood.


Iron is supplied by the diet. About 10% of the ingested iron is absorbed in the small intestine and transported to the plasma. There the iron is bound to transferrin and carried to the bone marrow for incorporation into hemoglobin.

Transferrin exists in relationship to the need for iron:

When iron stores are low, transferrin levels increase, whereas transferrin is low when there is too much iron.

Transferrin may also be measured using a value called total iron-binding capacity (TIBC). TIBC is a measurement of all proteins available for binding mobile iron.

Transferrin represents the largest quantity of iron-binding proteins. Therefore TIBC is an indirect yet accurate measurement of transferrin.

Why would you need to check your transferrin levels?

You may need this test if your doctor suspects that you have a certain type of anemia. In general, anemia means you have a low number of red blood cells. One type of anemia is iron-deficiency anemia. If you have this type, you don’t have enough iron to properly make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the substance that helps your red blood cells carry oxygen.


The information on is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

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