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Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3):353-8.

Dietary intake and iron status of Australian vegetarian women.

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School of Nutrition and Public Health, Deakin University, Burwood, Australia.



Despite the possible overall health benefits of a vegetarian diet, there is concern that some vegetarians and infrequent meat eaters, particularly females, may have inadequate iron status because of low or no heme-iron intakes.


The objective was to investigate the nutritional intake and iron status of vegetarian women.


The nutritional intakes of 50 free-living vegetarian women aged 18-45 y and 24 age-matched omnivorous control women were assessed by using 12-d weighed dietary records. Iron status was assessed by measuring hemoglobin and serum ferritin concentrations.


There was no significant difference between mean (+/-SD) daily iron intakes of vegetarians and omnivores (10.7 +/- 4.4 and 9.9 +/- 2.9 mg, respectively), although heme-iron intakes were low in the vegetarians. Vegetarians had significantly lower intakes of protein (P < 0.01), saturated fat (P < 0.01), and cholesterol (P < 0.001), and significantly higher intakes of dietary fiber (P < 0.001) and vitamin C (P < 0.05). Mean serum ferritin concentrations were significantly lower (P = 0.025) in vegetarians (25.0 +/- 16.2 microg/L) than in omnivores (45.5 +/- 42.5 microg/L). However, similar numbers of vegetarians (18%) and omnivores (13%) had serum ferritin concentrations <12 microg/L, which is a value often used as an indicator of low iron stores. Hemoglobin concentrations were not significantly different.


It is important that both vegetarian and omnivorous women maintain an adequate iron status and follow dietary practices that enhance iron absorption.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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