12 January - 20 June 2016

Iron supplements and exercise performance

23 Apr 14

A recent meta-analysis has found evidence that iron supplementation significantly improves exercise performance in women of reproductive age (WRA).

The cross-organisational team of researchers considered data from studies found in Scopus, Cochrane, WHO and MEDLINE databases. From over 6700 articles, 22 were identified as relevant to the meta-analysis’ aims: analysis of how iron supplementation affects the physical performance of WRA.

The data showed that supplemental iron benefited WRA in exercising at both maximal and sub maximal conditions. At maximal capacity (100% exertion), it was found that the subjects achieved higher levels of performance with the iron supplementation. At sub-maximal capacity, participants were observed to demonstrate better exercise efficiency and lower heart rate during a given exercise when given iron supplementation. These beneficial effects are believed to be due to increased haemoglobin production leading to improved oxygen-carrying capacity and increased tissue oxidation during exercise.

With levels of anaemia at 50% in some parts of the world, iron insufficiency is a global problem, and the World Health Organisation currently advises routine distribution of iron supplements to all women in populations with anaemia at over 20% prevalence. The authors suggest that their findings could be valuable in guiding iron deficiency prevention programmes, among physically active women in particular. [ScienceDaily]

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