Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Biomedical Human Kinetics

The Journal of University of Physical Education, Warsaw

1 Issue per year

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
More options …

Prevalence of iron deficiency in male elite athletes

Jadwiga Malczewska-Lenczowska / Romuald Stupnicki / Beata Szczepańska
Published Online: 2009-09-08 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10101-009-0010-1

Prevalence of iron deficiency in male elite athletes

Study aim: To assess the prevalence of iron deficiency in competitive male athletes.

Material and methods: In total, 90 elite athletes practicing judo, rowing, pentathlon, volleyball, kayaking and biathlon, aged 16-33 years, were studied. Blood morphology indices: haemoglobin concentration (Hb), hematocrit (Hct), red blood cell count (RBC), leucocyte count (WBC), mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentration (MCHC), mean corpuscular volume (MCV) and mean corpuscular haemoglobin (MCH) were determined. The concentrations of ferritin, soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR) and iron, as well as total iron binding capacity (TIBC), were determined in serum. Additionally, erythropoietin (EPO) was assayed in subjects with elevated sTfR levels.

Results: In no case iron-deficiency anaemia was found, but in 43% of subjects iron deficiency was detected. This included first stage of iron deficiency (iron depletion; ID) in 13% of subjects (ferritin <20 μg/L), and iron-deficient erythropoiesis (IDE) in 30% of subjects (ferritin <16 μg/L and sTfR> 2.75 mg/L). In all subjects with IDE, the concentrations of EPO were within normal range. The haematological indices remained unaffected in iron-depleted subjects, but in iron-deficient erythropoiesis subgroups the mean values of haemoglobin concentration and hematocrit were significantly lower than in subjects with normal iron stores (NIS).

Conclusion: Despite the lack of anaemia among studied athletes, the incidence of latent iron deficiencies (iron depletion and iron-deficient erythropoiesis) was very high. The increasing incidence of iron deficiency, together with apparent decreases of haematological indices in subjects with iron-deficient erythropoiesis, markedly augments the risk of anaemia in young, competitive male athletes. Therefore, that category of subjects should be periodically screened for iron deficiency.

Keywords: Iron status; Transferrin receptor; Ferritin; Exercise

  • Ahluwalia N. (1998) Diagnostic utility of serum transferrin receptor measurement in assessing iron status. Nutr. Rev. 56:133-141.PubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Bailie F. J., A. E. Morrison, I. Fergus (2003) Soluble transferring receptor: a discriminating assay for iron deficiency. Clin. Lab. Haem. 25:353-357.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Beard J., B. Tobin (2000) Iron status and exercise. Am. J. Clin. Nutr.72:594-599.Google Scholar

  • Beguin Y. (2003) Soluble transferring receptor for evaluation of erythropoiesis and iron status. Clin. Chim. Acta 329: 2-22.Google Scholar

  • Beutler E., A. V. Hofbrand, J. D. Cook. (2003) Iron deficiency and overload. Hematology 40:40-61.Google Scholar

  • Brownlie T., V. Utermholen, P. S. Hinton, J. D. Haas (2004) Tissue iron deficiency without anemia impairs adaptation in endurance capacity after aerobic training in previously untrained women. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 79:437-443.Google Scholar

  • Brownlie T., V. Utermohlen, P. S. Hinton, Ch. Giordano, J. D. Haas (2002) Marginal iron deficiency without anemia impairs aerobic adaptation among previously untrained women. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 75:734-742.Google Scholar

  • Constantini N. W., A. Eliakim, L. Zigel, M. Yaaron, B. Falk (2000) Iron status of highly active adolescents: evidence of depleted iron stores in gymnasts. Int. J. Sport Nutr. Exerc. Metab. 10:62-70.PubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Cook J. D., C. H. Flowers, B. S. Skikne (2003) The quantitive assessment of body iron. Blood 101:3359-3363.Google Scholar

  • Cook J. D. (1999) Defining optimal body iron. Proc. Nutr. Soc. 58:489-495.PubMedCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Dubnov G., N. Constantini (2004) Prevelance of iron depletion and anemia in top-level basketball players. Int.J. Sports Med. Exerc. Metab. 14:30-37.Google Scholar

  • Eliakim A., D. Nemed, N. Constantini (2002) Screening blood tests in members of Israeli National Olympic team. J. Sports Med. Phys. Fitness 42:250-255.Google Scholar

  • Gibson R. S. (2005) Assessment of iron states. In: Principles of Nutritional Assessment. 2nd Ed. Oxford University Press, pp. 443-476.Google Scholar

  • Malczewska J, G. Raczyński (1997) Iron status in male endurance athletes and in non-athletes Biol. Sport 14:259-273.Google Scholar

  • Malczewska J., B. Raczyńska, D. Siwińska, B. Szczepańska (1996) Ferritin - a diagnostic index of iron status in athletes. Biol. Sport 13:21-30.Google Scholar

  • Malczewska J., B. Szczepańska, R. Stupnicki, W. Sendecki (2001) The assessment of frequency of iron deficiency in athletes from the transferrin receptor -ferritin index. Int. J. Sports Nutr. Exerc. Metab. 11:42-52.Google Scholar

  • Malczewska J., R. Stupnicki, W. Błach, E. Turek-Lepa (2004) The effects of physical exercise on the concentrations of ferritin and transferrin receptor in plasma of male judoists. Int. J. Sports Med. 25:516-521.CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Malczewska J., R. Stupnicki, W. Błach. (2000) The effects of physical exercise on the concentrations of ferritin and transferrin receptor in plasma of female judoists. Int. J. Sports Med. 21:1-5.Google Scholar

  • Mast A. E., M. A. Blinder, A. M. Gronowski, C. Chumley, M. G. Scott (1998) Clinical utility of soluble transferring receptor and comparison with serum ferritin in several populations. Clin. Chem. 44:45-51.Google Scholar

  • Nachtigall D., P. Nielsen, R. Fischer, R. Engelhadt, E. E. Gabbe (1996) Iron deficiency in distance runners a reinvestigation using 59Fe-labelling and non-invasive liver iron quantification. Int. J. Sports Med.17:473-479.CrossrefPubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Nikolaidis M. G., Y. Michilidis, V. Mougios (2003) Variation of soluble transferrin receptor and ferritin concentrations in human serum during recovery from exercise. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 89:500-502.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Schumacher Y. O., A. Schmid, D. Köenig, A. Berg (2002) Effects of exercise on soluble transferrin receptor and other variables of the iron status. Br. J. Sports Med. 36:195-199.Google Scholar

  • Sinclair L. M., P. S. Hinton (2005) Prevalence of iron deficiency with and without anemia in recreationally active men and women. J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 105:975-978.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Skikne B. S. (1998) Circulating transferrin receptor assaycoming of age. Clin. Chem. 44:7-9.PubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Speich M., A. Pineau, F. Ballereau (2001) Minerals, trace elements and related biological variables in athletes and during physical activity. Clin. Chim. Acta 312:1-11.Google Scholar

  • Suominen P., K. Punnonen, A. Rajamäki, K. Irjala (1998) Serum transferrin receptor and transferrin receptor-ferritin index identify healthy subjects with subclinical iron deficits. Blood 92:2934-2939.Google Scholar

  • Szczepańska B., D. Siwińska, B. Majle, B. Raczyńska, G. Raczyński. (1997) Nutrition knowledge of youths practicing various sports. Pol. J. Food Nutr. Sci. 6:125-133.Google Scholar

  • Weight L. M., D. Alexander, P. Jacobs (1991) Strenuous exercise: analogous to the acute-phase response? Clin. Sci. 81: 677-683.PubMedGoogle Scholar

  • Wintrobe M. M., G. R. Lee, T. C. Bithel, J. Foerster, J. W. Athens, J. N. Lukens (1993) Wintrobe's Clinical Hematology. 9th ed., Lea & Febiger, Philadelphia-London, p. 98.Google Scholar

  • Worwood M. (2002) Serum transferring receptor assays and their application. Ann. Clin. Biochem. 39:221-230.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Zhu Y. I., J. D. Haas (1998) Altered metabolic response of iron depleted nonanemic women during a 15-km time trial. J. Appl. Physiol. 84:1768-1775.Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2009-09-08

Published in Print: 2009-01-01

Citation Information: Biomedical Human Kinetics, Volume 1, Pages 36–41, ISSN (Online) 2080-2234, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/v10101-009-0010-1.

Export Citation

This content is open access.

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in