Iron status and behavioral factors relative to dietary source of protein intake among female athletes at Virginia Tech

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Virginia Tech


Sixty-two female athletes at Virginia Tech participated in an investigation to compare iron status among those whose primary source of dietary protein was red meat (M), lacto-ovovegetarian (V), or poultry and fish (PF). Subjects' blood was collected three times over the six-month study period and analyzed for hemoglobin, hematocrit, serum iron, transferrin saturation, total iron~binding capacity, serum ferritin, free erythrocyte protoporphyrin, mean corpuscular volume, and red blood cell count. Means for all dietary groups were within normal limits for all blood variables. There were no significant differences among the dietary groups for any of the hematological parameters.

Six of the sixty-two subjects were found to be in stage 1 iron deficiency; two from Group M, one from Group V, and three from Group PF. None of the subjects was in stage 2 or 3 iron deficiency.

Subjects completed two 3-day dietary recalls which were analyzed for nutrient content. Group M consumed a significantly greater percent of kcals from protein than Group V and significantly more grams of protein than both Groups V and PF. There were no significant differences among the groups for intake of iron; however, only Group H consumed the current RDA for iron for adult women.

Three subjects from each dietary group were interviewed to identify factors considered most important in the adoption of their dietary patterns. Primary factors identified were: Group H; habit, taste preference, and health; Group Vi athletic performance and ethical treatment of animals, and Group PF; taste preference and health.

Iron status in this population does not appear to be affected by source of dietary protein.