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Iron Supplements Boost Athletic Performance

Update Date: Apr 11, 2014 06:18 PM EDT

Iron supplements may boost athletic performance in women, according to a new study.

Australian researchers from the University of Melbourne conducted a systematic review and analysis of the effect of iron supplementation on exercise performance in women of childbearing age.

The findings revealed that iron supplementation enhanced women's exercise performance by boosting their maximal physical capacity and exercise efficiency at submaximal exertion. Researchers found that iron supplements helped women perform exercise tasks using a lower heart rate and higher efficiency.

"This was mainly seen in women who had been iron deficient or anemic at the beginning of the trial and in women who were specifically training, including in elite athletes," lead researcher Dr. Sant-Rayn Pasricha from the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, said in a news release.

"The study collected data from many individual smaller studies which generally could not identify this beneficial effect on their own.  However, when we merged the data using meta-analysis, we found this impressive benefit from iron," he added.

Researchers said the latest findings are the first to confirm that iron supplementation enhances exercise performance, and could have implications for boosting performance in athletes, health and wellbeing in the general population.

"It may be worthwhile screening women, including women training as elite athletes, for iron deficiency, and ensuring they receive appropriate prevention and treatment strategies. Athletes, especially females, are at increased risk of iron deficiency potentially, due to their diets and inflammation caused by excessive exercise," added Pasricha.

The findings are published in the Journal of Nutrition.

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