Iron deficiency and the role of nutrition among female military recruits.

Eran Israeli, Drorit Merkel, Naama Constantini, Ran Yanovich, Rachel K. Evans, Danit Shahar, Daniel S. Moran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The impact of iron deficiency is considerable when enhanced physical fitness is required. Female military recruits represent a unique population faced with intense physical and cognitive demands. PURPOSE: To examine the prevalence of iron deficiency and the impact of dietary habits among female recruits in the Israel Defense Forces. METHODS: Three hundred and forty-eight recruits completed the study (188 female combatants, 58 male combatants, and 92 noncombat females). Dietary intake was assessed using a Food Frequency Questionnaire. Blood samples were collected for complete blood cell count, iron indices, and vitamin B12. The common definitions for anemia and iron store deficiency were used as follows: hemoglobin <12 g x dL for females and <14 g x dL for males; serum ferritin <12 mg x dL. RESULTS: The prevalence of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia was 29.8% and 12.8%, respectively, among female combatants. Similar data were found among noncombat females (27.2% and 17.4%, respectively) as compared with 5.2% and 0% among males. No significant difference in iron or total calorie intake was detected between subjects with iron deficiency (with or without anemia) when compared with subjects with normal iron status in the same study group. Plant sources constituted 85% of dietary iron source for females, in comparison to 73% for males. The contribution of red meat to the daily iron intake was 2% for females and 20% for males. CONCLUSIONS: A high prevalence of iron deficiency was found among female recruits. Coupled with the iron loss during menstruation, inadequate iron intake may have a permissive role for iron deficiency in female recruits and is an important issue facing females in the military.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S685-690
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number11 Suppl
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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