New Research Suggests Iron Deficiency May Hamper Weight Loss

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Presenting at a recent MLA symposium for health professionals, researcher Dr Amanda Patterson from the University of Newcastle reported from her studies that mildly iron deficient women showed more nervousness, sadness and carelessness and reported accomplishing less, having lower vitality and emotional problems that interfered with their daily activities.

The major concern is that iron deficiency in these overweight women could lead to physical lethargy and potentially decreased motivation, which in turn could frustrate efforts to lose weight

While the symptoms of tiredness and lethargy have long been associated with iron-deficient anaemia, research reveals even mild iron deficiencies impair day to day mental performance and could even frustrate efforts to lose weight. This could have lifestyle and health implications for the 20% of Australian women who are iron deficient.

Presenting at a recent MLA symposium for health professionals, researcher Dr Amanda Patterson from the University of Newcastle reported from her studies that mildly iron deficient women showed more nervousness, sadness and carelessness and reported accomplishing less, having lower vitality and emotional problems that interfered with their daily activities.

Dr Helen O'Connor, who is conducting a study on weight loss in young obese women at the University of Sydney, noted that there is emerging evidence of a greater risk of iron deficiency in obese individuals.

"Obesity may impair iron absorption from the diet, potentially placing overweight women at higher risk of iron deficiency.

"The major concern is that iron deficiency in these overweight women could lead to physical lethargy and potentially decreased motivation, which in turn could frustrate efforts to lose weight," said Dr O'Connor

Iron has a wide range of important roles in the body and is the most concentrated mineral in the brain. It is required for the production and function of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, which carry messages between brain cells and to the rest of the body. Other nutrients important for brain function include zinc, vitamin B12, omega-3 and amino acids.

Helen O'Connor also found that it was more difficult to meet iron and zinc requirements for young women on weight loss diets. She said that this highlights the need for careful and considered food choice to meet requirements of critical nutrients, such as iron, zinc, omega-3 - particular nutrients which are not found in a wide variety of foods - and B12.

Practitioners agreed that including nutrient-rich food, like red meat, which is high in bioavailable (readily absorbed) iron and zinc, as well as providing omega 3s, amino acids and B12 make it easier to meet nutrient requirements.

Issued on behalf of Meat & Livestock Australia

Ahmed F et al 2008, APJCN, Iron status among Australian Adults: findings of a population based study in Queensland, Australia. 17(1), p40-7

Diet & Cognition: Is there a Link? Seminar hosted by MLA on 24 June 2009. The proceedings of this seminar will be available on http://www.redmeatandnutrition.com.au from 27th July 2009

Dr Amanda Patterson, University of Newcastle. The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health

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