The Iron Maidens: Sarah Walker, Lisa Carrington and Sophie Pascoe are taking their role further as Beef + Lamb New Zealand ambassadors, helping to spread the message of an issue that faces many New Zealanders, but often goes unnoticed.
Feeling tired, irritable and grumpy, having difficulty concentrating and feeling the cold are all symptoms of being low in iron but are usually put down to a busy lifestyle.
“More people need to be aware of these symptoms and what can be done to improve iron levels”, says Sarah Walker, BMX medallist.
Iron deficiency remains an ongoing concern particularly for teenagers and women. Dr Kathryn Beck of Massey University says “The latest National Nutrition Survey found over 10 percent of New Zealand teens (15-18 years) and women (31-50 years) had iron deficiency. Many more women are likely to have low iron stores and are at risk of developing iron deficiency”.
Young children are also at risk with New Zealand research revealing eight out of 10 toddlers not meeting the recommended daily intake of dietary iron and 14 percent of children under two are deficient according to New Zealand research.
Iron’s role in red blood cell formation makes it vital for delivering oxygen to muscles during exercise and K1 canoer medallist, Lisa Carrington knows first-hand how important iron is in her diet every day.
“Nourishing whole food is key to my performance both in training and competition, and iron-rich foods have an important role to play in my energy levels,” she says.
This is also an area of interest for Senior Performance Nutritionist, Alex Popple from High Performance Sport New Zealand.
“Enhancing oxygen uptake and delivery are some of the desirable adaptations from endurance training. Paradoxically, endurance athletes are often found to have iron deficiency, which could limit or impair their performance”, says Popple.
Popple will be one of five speakers involved with a symposium for health professionals titled ‘Iron: The Issue of deficiency in a land of plenty’ held in association with the University of Auckland Food and Health Programme on Tuesday 8 April. He will present his findings on the role hepcidin, a hormone which elevates after intense exercise, has on iron levels in athletes.
Iron is found in a number of foods, with lean red meat providing one of the richest sources of easily absorbed haem iron; in general the redder the meat, the higher the iron content. For more information visit www.ironweek.co.nz or visit your GP.