Ballet dancing is a multifaceted activity requiring muscular power, strength, endurance, flexibility, and agility; necessitating demanding training schedules. Furthermore dancers may be under aesthetic pressure to maintain a lean physique, and adolescent dancers require extra nutrients for growth and development. This cross-sectional study investigated the nutritional status of 47 female adolescent ballet dancers (13–18 years) living in Auckland, New Zealand. Participants who danced at least 1 hr per day 5 days per week completed a 4-day estimated food record, anthropometric measurements (Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry) and hematological analysis (iron and vitamin D). Mean BMI was 19.7 ± 2.4kg/m2 and percentage body fat, 23.5 ± 4.1%. The majority (89.4%) of dancers had a healthy weight (5th-85th percentile) using BMI-for-age growth charts. Food records showed a mean energy intake of 8097.3 ± 2155.6kJ/day (48.9% carbohydrate, 16.9% protein, 33.8% fat, 14.0% saturated fat). Mean carbohydrate and protein intakes were 4.8 ± 1.4 and 1.6 ± 0.5g/kg/day respectively. Over half (54.8%) of dancers consumed less than 5g carbohydrate/kg/day, and 10 (23.8%) less than 1.2 g protein/kg/day. Over 60% consumed less than the estimated average requirement for calcium, folate, magnesium and selenium. Thirteen (28.3%) dancers had suboptimal iron status (serum ferritin (SF) <20μg/L). Of these, four had iron deficiency (SF < 12μg/L, hemoglobin (Hb) ≥ 120g/L) and one iron deficiency anemia (SF < 12μg/L, Hb < 120g/L). Mean serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D was 75.1 ± 18.6nmol/L, 41 (91.1%) had concentrations above 50nmol/L. Female adolescent ballet dancers are at risk for iron deficiency, and possibly inadequate nutrient intakes.
Beck, Mitchell, Conlon, and Hurst are with the Institute of Food Nutrition and Human Health, College of Health, Massey University, Albany, New Zealand. Foskett is with the School of Sport and Exercise, College of Health, Massey University, Albany, New Zealand.