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Mil Med. 2011 Dec;176(12):1421-5.

Iron status of military personnel deployed to Afghanistan.

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  • 1*59 CSPG/Clinical Research Division, Wilford Hall Medical Center, 2200 Bergquist Drive, Lackland Air Force Base, TX 78236, USA.


Iron is a micronutrient necessary for energy metabolism and for oxygen transport and delivery. Depletion of iron stores (iron deficiency [ID]) may lead to iron deficiency anemia (IDA), which affects mood, cognitive function, and physical performance. Previous studies indicated that iron status may decline during military training. This study assessed the iron status and prevalence of ID and IDA in military personnel deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan (1492 m). Within the pool of 294 participants (149 male and 145 female), 2 males (1%) and 8 females (6%) presented with ID. Although IDA was not observed in males, 3 females (2%) met the criteria for IDA. Female sex (p = 0.05) and self-reported history of anemia (p < 0.05) were associated with diminished iron status. Amenorrhea was associated with higher ferritin (p < 0.05) and hemoglobin (p < 0.05) levels. Although ID and IDA did not affect a large portion of the deployed population assessed in this study, findings suggest that risk factors including female sex, history of anemia, and regular menstruation should be considered in the assessment of iron status in military personnel.

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