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Iron Deficiency Without Anemia Impairs Exercise

A report from Cornell shows that lack of iron, even when it doesn't cause anemia, can hinder endurance.

You tire earlier during exercise when your red blood cell count is low because your blood cannot carry as much oxygen as that of a person who is not anemic. However, less than half of the iron in your body is stored in your red blood cells. You also store iron in reserves in your muscles, and other tissues, but you will not become anemic from iron deficiency until you have used up all the iron in your iron reserves.

This study shows that women who lack iron but are not anemic tire earlier, but improve to normal when they are given extra iron. If you feel that you tire early in exercise, get a blood test called ferritin, which measures iron reserves. If it is low, take iron pills to increase your endurance.

Marginal iron deficiency without anemia impairs aerobic adaptation among previously untrained women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2002, Vol 75, Iss 4, pp 734-742. T Brownlie, V Utermohlen, PS Hinton, C Giordano, JD Haas. Haas JD, Cornell Univ, Div Nutr Sci, Savage Hall, Ithaca,NY 14853 USA

Checked 7/2/12

May 11th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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