This review examines the hypothesis that vitamin and mineral status in athletes is inadequate for optimal sports performance. The review is based on indicators determined from blood and on studies published since 1980. Most of the studies did not find micronutrient status in athletes to be different from untrained controls. The serum ferritin concentration in females was lower than in males (27 vs. 78 μg · L−1), and the prevalence of low serum ferritin concentration was higher in female athletes than in untrained female controls (37 vs. 23%). Supplementation of water-soluble vitamins and iron was associated with an improvement in the corresponding indicators. Excluding a few studies with mildly anemic subjects, improvements in indicators of micronutrient status were not associated with enhanced athletic performance. Consequently, the levels of indicators of micronutrient status seen in athletes' blood were apparently compatible with optimal physical performance.
M. Fogelholm is with the UKK Institute for Health Promotion and Research, P.O. Box 30, FIN-33501 Tarnpere, Finland.