Low iron jeopardizes health

Female athletes need more iron than men in their daily diets to perform well, experts say.

Iron is an important mineral for female athletes because it is connected to the transportation of oxygen through the bloodstream to the heart, said Kimberly Wilkins, assistant university athletic trainer.

Latoya Skinner, 20, a computer science student from Houston said, “I ran track for a long period of time and in order for me to keep my energy going and have a high performance level, I needed my iron supplements.”

Wilkins said female athletes are at high risk to having iron deficiencies

“because of the heavy blood loss during their monthly menstrual cycles. Since blood contains iron, their body needs alternative sources to replenish the amount of iron that was lost,” she said.

Females need to pay close attention to the changes in their stamina and endurance to determine if they are getting adequate amounts of iron, according to the National Institute of Health Web site.

All athletes are required to take a physical examination before they can participate in a sport. Wilkins said, “One key question on the physical exam asked is- Is there a history of iron deficiencies? And several females athletes checked yes.”

Anemia is one of the major iron deficiencies found in the body.

“When there is inadequate amount of iron, especially for females, they become anemic,” said Wilkins.

According to Knight Ridder Tribune, a study conducted at Oklahoma University found 20 percent of its female athletes were anemic, which lowered their stamina.

Iron deficiencies can lead to health problems for the general public, but female athletes especially need an ample amount of iron in their daily diet to function effectively.

The consequences of not having enough iron can result in a severe health deficiency, according to the NIH website.

Male athletes are recommended to have fewer amounts of iron intakes.

Wilkins said, male athletes 14 to 18 years old need 11 milligrams of iron and men between the ages of 19 to 50 years old need only 8 milligrams of iron.

Wilkins said she notices every time one of the female athletes doesn’t take her iron supplement.

The trainers are around athletes quite often. Wilkins said she easily notices when there is a low performance level from the athletes. “The side effects are prevalent; I noticed them becoming fatigued and sluggish, low performance and even decreasing the immune functions in their daily routines,” Wilkins said.

The female athletes are offered iron supplements in Wilkins’ office or recommendations to help prevent further iron deficiencies.

“We offer supplements, but I usually recommend the females 14 to 18-years-old take 15 milligrams of iron and those 19 to 50-years-old take 18 milligrams of iron for their daily dosages,” said Wilkins.

Some sources of iron are meat, fish and poultry.