This study examined iron status and nutrient intake in highly active (n = 28; 20 ± 2 yr, ≥12 hr purposeful physical activity per week [PPA/wk]) and sedentary (n = 28; 24 ± 3 yr, ≤2 hr PPA/wk) women. Participants completed a 7-day weighed-food record (energy, protein, fiber, alcohol, and micronutrients), 7-day pedometer/activity log, and fasting blood draw (hemoglobin, hematocrit, red blood cell indices, C-reactive protein, serum iron, percent transferrin saturation, total iron-binding capacity, ferritin, transferrin receptor [sTfR], and sTfR index). Independent-sample t tests and the Mann–Whitney nonparametric test compared mean values between groups. Lower serum ferritin (p = .01) and mean cell hemoglobin (p < .01) concentrations were found in active than in sedentary women. Higher mean sTfR (p = .01) and sTfR index (p < .01) values were found in the active women. No significant differences were found between groups for the other blood markers. Serum ferritin concentrations (storage iron) indicated iron depletion (Stage I) in 21% of active and 18% of sedentary participants. Nonetheless, 50% of active and 18% of sedentary participants were iron depleted as evidenced by the sTfR index (ratio of functional-to-storage iron). Elevated sTfR concentrations (functional iron) were observed in 25% of active and 3% of sedentary participants. Although the active women reported greater iron (p < .01) but similar heme iron intakes, they had higher mean sTfR, higher sTfR index, and lower serum ferritin concentrations than the sedentary women. Assessment of iron status may require measures not commonly used in routine assessments.
Woolf, St. Thomas, Hahn, and Vaughan are with the Nutrition Program, Arizona State University, Mesa, AZ 85212. Carlson is with Athletes Performance, Tempe, AZ 85281. Hinton is with the Dept. of Nutritional Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211-7210.