Iron supplements can help women pump up the benefits of exercise, according to new research out of the University of Melbourne.
The findings, published in the Journal of Nutrition, are based on an analysis of numerous small studies of the effects of iron supplementation on exercise performance of women.
Lead researcher Sant-Rayn Pasricha, M.D., from the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, found that iron supplementation helped improve the highest level of exercise women can achieve — at 100 percent exertion — and their ability to perform workouts using a lower heart rate and at a 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," he said.
"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."
Dr. Pasricha said the findings have implications for improved performance in athletes, as well as 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," said Dr Pasricha. "Athletes, especially females, are at increased risk of iron deficiency potentially, due to their diets and inflammation caused by excessive exercise."
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