ITHACA, N.Y. -- Young women with low body iron -- but who are not quite anemic -- must use more effort to do the same amount of physical work or exercise than women who are not iron- deficient, according to several new Cornell University studies.
In some of the first studies to look at iron-depleted women who are not anemic -- about 16 percent of U.S. women and 40 to 80 percent of women in developing countries -- Cornell nutritionists have determined that work capacity and physical performance are significantly impaired compared with women with normal iron levels.
Worse, women usually are unaware of their iron depletion, and physically active women and vegetarians are at particularly high risk for iron depletion, the researchers point out.
"This suggests that millions of women are impaired -- working harder than they need to for the same amount of exercise or physical work," said Jere Haas, Ph.D., the Nancy Schlegel Meinig Professor of Maternal and Child Nutrition at Cornell and co-director of the Cornell Program in International Nutrition.
"In developing countries, where about 40 percent of women are anemic and another 40 percent are iron-depleted without anemia, low iron stores can have dramatic consequences on a woman's ability to do physical work and make a living," said Haas, who studies the functional consequences of mild to moderate forms of malnutrition worldwide.
With postdoctoral associate Y. Isabel Zhu of China, Cornell Ph.D. '97, Haas has been looking at iron depletion without anemia in several groups of women, ages 19 to 36. Their findings were presented to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology the past two years and will be published, in part, in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
These studies provide mounting evidence that iron depletion without anemia should be a concern. Other researchers have recently reported that moderate iron deficiency also compromises memo
Contact: Susan Lang
Cornell University News Service