Original Article

European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 112, Issue 2, pp 513-523

Iron status in elite young athletes: gender-dependent influences of diet and exercise

  • Karsten KoehlerAffiliated withInstitute of Biochemistry, German Sport UniversityGerman Research Centre of Elite Sports, German Sport University Email author 
  • , Hans BraunAffiliated withInstitute of Biochemistry, German Sport UniversityGerman Research Centre of Elite Sports, German Sport University
  • , Silvia AchtzehnAffiliated withGerman Research Centre of Elite Sports, German Sport UniversityInstitute of Training Science and Sport Informatics, German Sport University
  • , Ursula HildebrandAffiliated withGerman Research Centre of Elite Sports, German Sport UniversityInstitute of Cardiology and Sport Medicine, German Sport University
  • , Hans-Georg PredelAffiliated withInstitute of Cardiology and Sport Medicine, German Sport University
  • , Joachim MesterAffiliated withGerman Research Centre of Elite Sports, German Sport UniversityInstitute of Training Science and Sport Informatics, German Sport University
  • , Wilhelm SchänzerAffiliated withInstitute of Biochemistry, German Sport University

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access

Abstract

Iron depletion seems to occur more frequently among athletes than in the general population and may affect performance capacity. Only little information is available about the prevalence of iron status abnormalities in young elite athletes and whether iron depletion is associated with gender, sport, age or nutrition- and exercise-related factors in this group. Hence, diet, exercise and haematological data from 193 elite athletes (96 males, 97 females; 16.2 ± 2.7 years) from 24 different sports were analyzed retrospectively. Most female athletes failed to meet the recommended daily allowance for iron, even though dietary iron density was higher than in males (5.75 ± 0.78 vs. 6.17 ± 0.98 mg/1,000 kcal; P = 0.001). Iron depletion (serum ferritin < 35 μg/L) occurred in 31% of male and 57% of female athletes (P < 0.001). Low haemoglobin (males: <13 g/dL; females: <12 g/dL) and haematocrit (males: <40%; females: <36%) values were equally prevalent in both genders [haemoglobin: 7.3% (males), 6.2% (females); haematocrit: 13.5% (males); 15.5% (females)]. In females, reduced ferritin levels were associated with a lower dietary iron density (5.9 ± 0.8 vs. 6.6 ± 1.1 mg/1,000 kcal; P = 0.002). Males with iron depletion had a significantly higher estimated energy expenditure (48.7 ± 7.0 vs. 44.4 ± 7.6 kcal/kg/day; P = 0.009).

Keywords

Ferritin Dietary iron density Exercise expenditure Supplementation