Risks of iron deficiency among vegetarian college women

Hawk, Susan N.; Englehardt, Kimberly Grage; Small, Cindi
March 2012
Health (1949-4998);Mar2012, Vol. 4 Issue 3, p113
Academic Journal
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common nutritional deficiency disease worldwide and poses a major threat in women of child-bearing age and those who follow a vegetarian diet. The objective of this study was to ascertain whether differences exist in iron status markers between female university students following a vegetarian and nonvegetarian diet. This study took a cross sectional analysis of 39 female students at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly State University) in San Luis Obispo, CA between the ages of 18 and 22. Of the participants, 19 followed a vegetarian diet and 20 followed a nonvegetarian diet. Characteristic, demographic, and anthropometric data were collected and analyzed. The results showed no significant difference in iron intake between the two groups. However, nearly 66% of vegetarians and 65% of non-vegetarians failed to meet the Recommended Daily Allowance for iron. No significant difference was found for serum iron, serum ferritin, transferrin saturation, and total iron binding capacity between subjects. Serum ferritin tended to be lower for vegetarians compared to non-vegetarians. Both vegetarians and non-vegetarians were in stage IV negative iron balance, with more vegetarians tending to be in stage IV negative iron balance than non-vegetarians. Thus, female college students, irrespective of their meat intake, may be at higher risk of developing negative iron balance and should be educated about iron deficiency anemia and the prevention of iron depletion.


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