Iron status and self-perceived health, well-being, and fatigue in female university students living in New Zealand

Kathryn L Beck, Cathryn A Conlon, Rozanne Kruger, Anne-Louise M Heath, Christophe Matthys, Jane Coad, Welma Stonehouse
Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2012, 31 (1): 45-53

OBJECTIVE: To determine the relationship between iron depletion and self-perceived health, well-being, and fatigue in a female university student population living in New Zealand.

METHODS: A total of 233 women aged 18-44 years studying at Massey University, Auckland, were included in this cross-sectional analysis. Serum ferritin (SF), hemoglobin (Hb), and C-reactive protein (CRP) were analyzed from a venipuncture blood sample. Participants completed the SF-36v2 General Health Survey (SF-36) and the Multidimensional Fatigue Symptom Inventory-Short Form (MFSI-SF) questionnaire, and anthropometric measurements (height and weight) and data on demographics, lifestyle, and medical history were obtained. Characteristics of iron-sufficient (SF ≥ 20 μg/L, Hb ≥ 120 g/L) and iron-depleted (SF < 20 μg/L, Hb ≥ 120 g/L) participants were compared, and multiple regression analyses were carried out to determine predictors of health, well-being, and fatigue using a p value of <0.01 to indicate statistical significance because multiple comparisons were being made.

RESULTS: There were no significant differences in self-perceived health and well-being determined using the SF-36 questionnaire between women who were iron sufficient and women who were iron depleted. Although MFSI-SF physical fatigue was significantly lower in those with iron depletion (p = 0.008), it was not predicted by current iron status in a multivariate model controlling for factors expected to be associated with iron status and fatigue (p = 0.037). However, smoking, a history of suboptimal iron status, and having a current medical condition were significant (negative) predictors of MFSI-SF physical fatigue, explaining 22.5% of the variance (p < 0.001). There were no significant differences in the other measures of fatigue determined using the MFSI-SF between women who were iron sufficient and those who were iron depleted.

CONCLUSIONS: Women with iron depletion did not differ significantly from women who were iron sufficient with regard to self-perceived health, well-being, or fatigue. Future studies investigating fatigue should control for previous diagnosis of suboptimal iron status, smoking, and presence of a medical condition.

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