Researchers from the University of Melbourne have conducted a literature review and the findings could prove to be a tremendous benefit for professional female athletes. The Australian team has become the first to confirm that iron supplements significantly improve exercise performance.
Led by Dr Sant-Rayn Pasricha, the researchers conducted an analysis of data collected through numerous smaller studies. On their own, these studies did not produce any conclusive results as to the benefits of iron supplements but the combined body of data subjected to meta-analysis revealed impressive benefits.
Pasricha´s team established that iron supplementation boosted exercise performance in women, positively affecting their achievement both at maximal and submaximal exertion. Women receiving iron supplements were able to do an exercise more efficiently while using a lower heart rate. This ability was particularly pronounced among women entering trials with iron deficiency or anaemia and women in training, professional athletes included. The Australian review also confirmed that female exercise performance could be impaired by iron deficiency. Such deficiency can also result in fatigue and lethargy, potentially leading to iron deficiency anaemia.
The findings of the study could do more than contribute to improving athletic performance: they could benefit the rest of the female population in terms of general health and well-being. According to Pasricha, it may pay off to screen women for iron deficiency and develop appropriate strategies for prevention and treatment. In the case of elite athletes, the risk of iron deficiency is higher because of their nutritional regimens and inflammation brought about by excessive exercise, he added.