Iron status in athletic females, a shift in perspective on an old paradigm.


Badenhorst CE(1), Goto K(2), O'Brien WJ(1), Sims S(3).
Author information:
(1)School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition, College of Health, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand.
(2)Graduate School of Sport and Health Science, Ritsumeikan University, Kusatsu, Japan.
(3)Te Huataki Waiora - School of Health, the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.


Iron deficiency is a common nutrient deficiency within athletes, with sport scientists and medical professionals recognizing that athletes require regular monitoring of their iron status during intense training periods. Revised considerations for athlete iron screening and monitoring have suggested that males get screened biannually during heavy training periods and females require screening biannually or quarterly, depending on their previous history of iron deficiency. The prevalence of iron deficiency in female athletes is higher than their male counterparts and is often cited as being a result of the presence of a menstrual cycle in the premenopausal years. This review has sought to revise our current understanding of female physiology and the interaction between primary reproductive hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) and iron homoeostasis in females. The review highlights an apparent symbiotic relationship between iron metabolism and the menstrual cycle that requires additional research as well as identifying areas of the menstrual cycle that may be primed for nutritional iron supplementation.