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Iron May Boost Exercise Performance in Women

Previous studies have suggested that low iron levels can have a negative impact on physical exercise performance. A recent study suggests that iron supplements may improve exercise performance in women.

Women of childbearing age are at risk for iron deficiency due to menstrual blood loss. Female athletes are particularly at risk because they tend to have lower iron absorption due to subclinical inflammation.

The researchers examined 22 randomized controlled trials for this analysis. They found that iron supplementation improved maximal exercise performance as demonstrated by increased oxygen consumption. Submaximal exercise performance was also improved as demonstrated by lower heart rate.

The researchers noted that these results can be extrapolated to other populations of women who, for example, do highly physical work.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne, the University of Oxford, the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, the University of Adelaide, Monash Health, and the Micronutrient Initiative conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on April 9, 2014, in The Journal of Nutrition.

Because iron is essential for healthy blood, iron consumption affects everything from muscle function to brain function to regulation of body temperature. If you’re looking to add more iron to your daily diet, try to eat more lean, low-fat red meats. If you’re a vegetarian or just prefer not to consume too much meat, try legumes, lentils, soy beans, whole grains and green leafy vegetables as they are great dietary sources of iron.

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