The Utility of the Low Energy Availability in Females Questionnaire to Detect Markers Consistent With Low Energy Availability-Related Conditions in a Mixed-Sport Cohort

in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
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  • 1 Australian Institute of Sport
  • | 2 University of Canberra
  • | 3 Australian Catholic University
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The Low Energy Availability in Females Questionnaire (LEAF-Q) was validated to identify risk of the female athlete triad (triad) in female endurance athletes. This study explored the ability of the LEAF-Q to detect conditions related to low energy availability (LEA) in a mixed sport cohort of female athletes. Data included the LEAF-Q, SCOFF Questionnaire for disordered eating, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry-derived body composition and bone mineral density, Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview, blood pressure, and blood metabolic and reproductive hormones. Participants were grouped according to LEAF-Q score (≥8 or <8), and a comparison of means was undertaken. Sensitivity, specificity, and predictive values of the overall score and subscale scores were calculated in relation to the triad and biomarkers relevant to LEA. Fisher’s exact test explored differences in prevalence of these conditions between groups. Seventy-five athletes (18–32 years) participated. Mean LEAF-Q score was 8.0 ± 4.2 (55% scored ≥8). Injury and menstrual function subscale scores identified low bone mineral density (100% sensitivity, 95% confidence interval [15.8%, 100%]) and menstrual dysfunction (80.0% sensitivity, 95% confidence interval [28.4%, 99.5%]), respectively. The gastrointestinal subscale did not detect surrogate markers of LEA. LEAF-Q score cannot be used to classify athletes as “high risk” of conditions related to LEA, nor can it be used as a surrogate diagnostic tool for LEA given the low specificity identified. Our study supports its use as a screening tool to rule out risk of LEA-related conditions or to create selective low-risk groups that do not need management as there were generally high negative predictive values (range 76.5–100%) for conditions related to LEA.

Rogers is with the Australian Institute of Sport, Bruce, ACT, Australia. Rogers, Drew, Appaneal, Lovell, Vlahovich, and Waddington are with the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise, University of Canberra, Bruce, ACT, Australia. Drew and Appaneal are also with Applied Technology and Innovation, Australian Institute of Sport, Bruce, ACT, Australia. Lundy and Burke are with the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. Hughes and Waddington are with the Department of Sports Medicine, Australian Institute of Sport, Bruce, ACT, Australia.

Rogers (margot.rogers@ausport.gov.au) is corresponding author.

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