Iron deficiency, fitness, and grade point average – they are interrelated!

Iron deficiency, fitness, and grade point average - they are interrelated!

Iron is an essential mineral needed for a variety of functions in the body, including transporting oxygen to cells so that they can make energy for the body.

As such, iron deficiency is associated with myriad complications including fatigue. It can also lead to poor academic performance in children and lower work capacity in adults.

Other factors related to overall health, such as physical fitness, are also associated with overall energy, cognition, and learning.

However, very little is known about whether variation in iron deficiency and/or physical fitness are related to the most common indicator of academic success in college – that is, grades earned in coursework.

This question was recently addressed by a research team from The Pennsylvania State University and the University of Nebraska and led by Dr. Laura Murray-Kolb.

Their findings, published in The Journal of Nutrition, suggest that young women with low iron status and poor aerobic fitness may be at higher risk for earning lower grades than those who have good iron status and good aerobic fitness.

To test their hypotheses, the researchers studied 105 healthy women enrolled at Penn State. None of the women were anemic, but almost half had mild iron deficiency, a common situation in this age group.

Blood was drawn and analyzed for a variety of factors related to iron stores, and physical fitness was assessed using a standardized treadmill test.

Average grade point average was 3.68 (equivalent to an A-), indicating that the participants were, in general, quite good students.

The researchers found that women with the highest levels of stored iron also had the highest grades. Those who were the most physically fit and had adequate iron stores had higher grades than less-fit women with lower iron stores.

The scientists concluded that having low iron stores and low aerobic fitness “may prevent female college students from achieving their full academic potential.”

Randomized, controlled intervention studies will be needed, however, to evaluate whether these associations are causal or coincidental in nature.

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News source: American Society of Nutrition. The content is edited for length and style purposes.
Figure legend: This image is for illustrative purposes only.