Transitory hematologic effects of moderate exercise are not influenced by iron supplementation

Jack Hegenauer, Linda Strause, Paul Saltman, Diana Dann, James White, Ralph Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


A young women's exercise/fitness class tested the idea that administration of supplemental iron would prevent "sports anemia" that may develop during exercise and training and improve iron status of exercising females of menstrual age. Fifteen women (aged 18-37) were selected for each of three treatment groups: (1) no supplemental iron; (2) 9 mg·d-1 of Fe; and (3) 18 mg·d-1 of Fe (1 US Recommended Daily Allowance). Women exercised at approximately 85% of maximal heartrate for progressively increasing lengths of time in a jogging program and worked up to 45 min of exercise 4 d·week-1 for 8 weeks. Hematologic analysis was performed in weeks 1, 5, and 8. A significant decline in hemoglobin (Hb) concentration and hematocrit (Hct) was observed at week 5 when all data were examined without regard for iron intake; these red cell indices returned to pre-exercise levels by week 8. Reduction of mean cell hemoglobin concentration (MCHC) indicated that the midpoint decline was not caused by simple hemodilution during exercise. Serum ferritin (SF) concentration changed in parallel with Hb and Hct. Although the midpoint decline in SF was not statistically significant, it ruled out the possibility that turnover of red cell iron was directed to storage. Lowered MCHC and SF suggested lower availability of iron during the synthesis of a new generation of red cells. Few iron treatment effects of magnitude were observed. Iron did not prevent the midpoint decline in Hb concentration. Iron intake did not affect SF, serum iron, transferrin saturation, or final Hb, and Hct. Dietary iron availability thus does not appear to play a role in the phenomenon of "sports anemia". Temporary alteration of priorities for iron needs during exercise, perhaps for muscle myoglobin, may be responsible for this transitory "anemia".

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-61
Number of pages5
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1983
Externally publishedYes


  • Exercise
  • Hematologic changes
  • Hemoglobin
  • Iron supplements
  • Sports anemia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Physiology


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