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The role of blood loss and diet in the aetiology of mild iron deficiency in premenopausal adult New Zealand women

  • Anne-Louise M Heath (a1), C Murray Skeaff (a1), Sheila Williams (a2) and Rosalind S Gibson (a1)



To investigate the role of blood loss and diet in the aetiology of mild iron deficiency (MID) in premenopausal New Zealand women. Mild iron deficiency was defined as low, but not necessarily exhausted, iron stores (i.e. serum ferritin <20 μg/L) in the absence of anaemia (i.e. haemoglobin ≥120 g/L).


Cross-sectional study of a volunteer sample of premenopausal adult women. Information on habitual dietary intakes (using a specially designed and validated computerised iron food frequency questionnaire), health and demographic status, sources of blood loss (including menstrual blood loss estimated using a validated menstrual recall method), contraceptive use, height and weight, haemoglobin, serum ferritin and C-reactive protein were collected.


Dunedin, New Zealand during 1996/1997.


Three hundred and eighty-four women aged 18–40 years.


The characteristics that were associated with an increased risk of MID were: low meat/fish/poultry intake, high menstrual blood loss, recent blood donation, nose bleeds, and low body mass index. The protective factors included shorter duration of menstrual bleeding, and multivitamin–mineral supplement use in the past year.


There are a number of potentially modifiable factors that appear to influence risk of MID. Women with low menstrual blood loss may be able to decrease their risk of MID by increasing their meat/fish/poultry intake, while those with a higher menstrual blood loss may be able to decrease their risk by decreasing their menstrual blood loss, perhaps by changing their method of contraception. Women should be encouraged to maintain a healthy body weight, and those who choose to donate blood, or who experience nose bleeds, should have their iron stores monitored.

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