Low iron levels slow down female athletes

November 21, 2011 By Susan Kelley

(Medical Xpress) -- Female athletes with low levels of iron in their bodies, yet who are not anemic, may be at a disadvantage even before their competitive season starts, according to a new Cornell study. These athletes could benefit from early screening and monitoring for anemia and low iron reserves at the beginning of the training season, the authors found.

"Results from this study add to the evidence that iron status is an important issue facing female endurance athletes at the beginning of a training season," said Diane DellaValle, a recent Ph.D. graduate in the field of . She wrote the article with Jere D. Haas, the Nancy Schlegel Meinig Professor of Maternal and Child Nutrition.

The study, which will be published in the December issue of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, examined the iron levels of college-age female rowers at the beginning of the training season. The study also sought to determine the link between iron deficiency without anemia and the athletes' rowing performance.

The authors studied iron levels in 165 non-anemic women rowers from five colleges in central New York state. Those who had lower iron levels were 21 seconds slower in a simulated 2-kilometer race than rowers with normal iron levels.

Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. In the United States, anemia affects 3 percent to 5 percent of the population of ; iron depletion -- not at the level of anemia -- affects 16 percent, the authors write.

Compared with sedentary women, are more susceptible to low iron levels. And the consequences may hit female athletes harder. Low iron reduces their endurance and the efficiency with which they use energy, and it increases .

Iron is an essential component of blood hemoglobin and when a deficiency results in anemia it plays an important role in and use. When people consume iron-deficient diets or when other factors cause them to become iron deficient, they first deplete their iron stores in the liver; at the final stage of iron depletion, they become anemic due to insufficient iron to produce new red blood cells.

The researchers recommend female endurance athletes get early screening not only for anemia but also for low iron reserves; and they recommend athletes take iron supplements at the beginning of a season to prevent decreases in throughout the training and competitive periods. Other studies have shown that iron supplementation improves resistance to fatigue and endurance capacity in non-athletes with low levels of iron. with a history of anemia or iron deficiency should also regularly monitor their levels, the study said.

Explore further: Iron and copper relationship is studied

Related Stories

Iron and copper relationship is studied

July 24, 2007

U.S. scientists studying the relationship of iron and copper in the body have found when iron absorption by cells decreases, copper absorption increases.

Genetic form of anemia defined molecularly

April 1, 2010

Sideroblastic anemia is a form of anemia caused by an inability to incorporate iron into hemoglobin, something that is essential if the molecule is to perform its vital function of carrying oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. ...

Extra iron doesn't help many pregnant women

March 11, 2011

Although universal prenatal supplementation with iron is recommended, an extra intake of iron does not noticeably benefit pregnant women, except when they are anemic. This was observed by researchers of the Institute of Tropical ...

Maternal obesity puts infants at risk

April 30, 2011

Babies born to obese mothers are at risk for iron deficiency, which could affect infant brain development, according to a study to be presented Saturday, April 30, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting ...

Recommended for you

Strict diet combats rare progeria aging disorders

August 25, 2016

Mice with a severe aging disease live three times longer if they eat thirty percent less. Moreover, they age much healthier than mice that eat as much as they want. These are findings of a joint study being published today ...

New avenue for understanding cause of common diseases

August 25, 2016

A ground-breaking Auckland study could lead to discoveries about many common diseases such as diabetes, cancer and dementia. The new finding could also illuminate the broader role of the enigmatic mitochondria in human development.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.