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Scientists far from finish line in understanding anemia in female athletes
Date:11/20/2013

ANN ARBORWhen Kaitlyn Patterson's fatigue progressed to hyperventilating even during slow runs, and then forced her to quit high school distance running for the season, she knew something was very wrong.

Patterson had exercise-induced iron-deficiency anemia, a common, perplexing problem among elite female athletes, especially endurance runners. Later, as a University of Michigan sophomore, she was so interested in the topic that she applied for an undergraduate research position in the lab of Peter Bodary, U-M clinical assistant professor of movement science and health & fitness.

Patterson recently co-wrote a study challengingand perhaps putting to resta popular hypothesis on what causes exercise-induced iron-deficiency anemia.

It's another in a succession of findings from separate research groups that debunk the notion that the iron-regulating hormone hepcidin causes exercise-induced anemia. Conventional science has suggested that rigorous exercise causes hepcidin spikes that result in anemia.

"The U-M finding is significant because we want to provide physicians with the most accurate information regarding exercise-induced anemia," Bodary said.

The downside is that hepcidin isn't the anemia cure-all the scientific community had hoped.

Bodary said that physicians already do a nice job of helping athletes recover from exercise-induced anemia by providing iron supplementation and educating athletes about optimizing iron absorption. The challenge now is understanding what causes anemia in order to prevent it.

The U-M study is the first known to compare hepcidin levels in competitive college female runners against those of non-exercisers, Bodary said. About half the runners in the study had a history of anemia and about 85 percent supplemented with iron.

Researchers wanted to see if hepcidin remained high in resting athletes, which could link elevated hepcidin with exercise-induced iron-defici
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Contact: Laura Bailey
baileylm@umich.edu
734-647-1848
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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