Population-based prevalence of anemia, iron, folic acid and vitamin B12 deficiency among young adults in Israel

Drorit Merkel, Ran Balicer, Nadav Davidovitch, Itamar Grotto, Salman Zarka, Michael Huerta

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


Background: The prevalence of anemia and iron deficiency among adolescents and young adults in Israel has not yet been assessed. Studies performed among specific populations in Israel demonstrated highly variable rates of anemia of 6–58%, with iron deficiency rates of 13–38%. We have set out to investigate the prevalence of anemia, iron, folic acid and vitamin B12 deficiency among young males and females that are requited to the army in Israel (IDF).
Methods: A random sample of 366 new recruits to the IDF (270 males and 96 females) participated in the study and undergone blood testing for Hemoglobin, Iron, Transferrin, Ferritin, Vitamin B12, Folic acid on recruitment day.
Results: Anemia among females (Hb<12 gr/dl), was 15.1% compared with 11.4% among males (Hb<14 gr/dl). Transferrin saturation values indicating iron deficiency (15%>) were also more prevalent among females compared with males (28.1% and 9.7%, respectively), as were low ferritin rates (37.2% and 14.3%, respectively). Vitamin B-12 deficiency (<180 pg/ml) was found in 6.6–9.6% of the subjects, and folic acid deficiency was detected in 6.4–11.7% of the subjects. Low-level paternal education and immigration were two factors found to be negatively associated with anemia. Smoking was associated with low ferritin levels in males. Anemia and iron levels were not affected significantly by the type of service designed, as combat soldiers or for clerical work.
Conclusions: Anemia and iron deficiency occur frequently among young adults requited to the IDF. They were more prevalent among females; but in males the prevalence is higher than expected. Low content of iron in the diet, infection like H Pylori and engaging in strenuous exercise preparing to service, may contribute to depleted iron stores. Low-level paternal education and immigration was surprisingly protecting factor, may be as a result of different eating habits. Anemia and iron deficiency, are known to reduce physical work capacity and mental performance, therefore it is important to perform more research to identify possible etiologies for intervention like education for proper nutrition, and adjustment of the diet in the military to tackle this prevalent problem.
Original languageEnglish GB
Article number3754
Issue number11
StatePublished - 16 Nov 2007


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