Thursday, January 6, 2011

Low Iron Still an Issue in Professional Athletes

Despite the fact that most of you are probably weekend-warriors or recreational athletes, I suspect that some of you expose their bodies to similar stressors as professional athletes do. Therefore, I assume you'd be interested in a recent study coming from German scientists (Reinke. 2011) who found that "although recuperation seems to allow a certain recovery of iron storage, particularly in athletes with initially low ferritin levels, this retrieval was insufficient to fully normalise reduced iron levels."

The scientists had previously examined the iron metabolism in 20 elite rowing athletes and 10 professional soccer players at the end of a competitive season, after recuperation and during pre-season training and found:
At the end of season, 27% of all athletes had absolute ID [iron deficiency] and 70% showed functional ID. Absolute iron depletion was not generally restored after recuperation and observed at all time points in 14% of the athletes. Although athletes with initially low ferritin levels showed a slight increase during recuperation (p < 0.09), these increases remained within borderline levels. Furthermore, 10% showed borderline haemoglobin levels, suggestive of mild anaemia, as defined by the World Health Organisation.
While I would not suggest supplementing with iron without due reason, this study should remind you to have your levels checked, at least once a year in order to intervene before you actually feel the negative effects of low iron and anemia.