Iron study to im­prove lives

The West Australian - - NEWS - Steve But­ler

A world-first WA study into the ef­fect of iron in­take on elite ath­letes could also un­lock a path­way to health­ier liv­ing for peo­ple in ev­ery­day life.

The Univer­sity of WA and WA In­sti­tute of Sport, through the High Per­for­mance Sport Re­search Cen­tre, will start blood-test­ing a group of 16 ath­letes next month in a bid to bet­ter iden­tify the ben­e­fits of iron on per­for­mance and the best times to take it to im­prove ab­sorp­tion.

Iron de­fi­ciency, which causes lethargy and fa­tigue, is es­ti­mated to af­fect up to half of the world’s pop­u­la­tion.

The cen­tre’s re­search direc­tor Pete Peel­ing said it was height­ened in ath­letes be­cause of their in­creased hor­monal ac­tiv­ity im­me­di­ately af­ter ex­er­cise.

But he be­lieved the study could also un­cover ben­e­fits for the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

Mr Peel­ing said de­pleted iron stores was a prob­lem for between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of women but was neg­li­gi­ble in men.

That rose to 35 per cent in fe­male ath­letes and 10 per cent in their male coun­ter­parts and was es­pe­cially ev­i­dent in en­durance-based ath­letes and those on a veg­e­tar­ian diet.

“Your body doesn’t pro­duce iron, so the only way you can get it is from your diet and a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ex­er­cise pro­cesses re­sult in you los­ing your iron stores,” Mr Peel­ing said.

“If you don’t have the store, you can’t adapt to the train­ing. The hor­mone pro­files that oc­cur af­ter ex­er­cise mean that you ab­sorb less iron.

“If you’ve got el­e­vated hor­mone lev­els you’re go­ing to ab­sorb less iron and that’s one of the rea­sons ath­letes be­come iron de­fi­cient, which is a big prob­lem in Aus­tralian sport.

“We’re not very good at ab­sorb­ing what we eat any­way so ex­er­cise just adds an­other pres­sure.”

The re­search will be driven by UWA-WAIS PhD can­di­date Rachel McCormick, who hopes to pub­lish her re­sults by the end of the year.

The re­search has been partly funded by the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Sport, the Aus­tralian Sports Com­mis­sion and Triathlon Aus­tralia.

Pic­ture: Nic El­lis

UWA’s Pete Peel­ing and PhD can­di­date Rachel McCormick are head­ing a joint study between UWA and WAIS on the ef­fects of iron on elite ath­letes.

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