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Eat Weight Disord. 2014;19(3):321-7. doi: 10.1007/s40519-013-0091-2. Epub 2013 Dec 19.

Effect of short-term food restriction on iron metabolism, relative well-being and depression symptoms in healthy women.

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Department of Human Nutrition and Hygiene, Poznan University of Life Sciences, Poznan, Poland,



The idea that iron deficiency anemia can be recognized in depressive patients has been around for a few years, as well as negative association between ferritin levels and depression. Iron deficiency anemia, associated with low iron intake, has been observed in women using restriction diets, for example in vegetarians or anorexics. There are no data on the influence of the short-term food restrictions, observed for example in slimming women, on iron management and its connection with behavior expressed via changes in the subject's emotional state.


This study describes the effect of one- and two-day food restrictions (every 8 days for a period of 48 days) on selected iron management parameters in the serum and blood of 46 healthy volunteer women (23 in each group), aged 25.5 ± 3.0 years, in association with the subjects' self-described emotional status and depression symptoms. The association between iron parameters and depression was also analyzed.


Results show that short-term (2 days) fasting significantly decreases iron concentrations in serum and hair, as well as levels of ferritin, hemoglobin, hematocrit, red blood cells, and total iron binding capacity, but the short-term fasting did not influence the other iron management parameters. Each model of food restrictions also increased negative feelings towards depression. A significant negative correlation between serum ferritin levels and depression was found in women who starved for 2 days.


The study shows that, through an impact on mineral levels, even short-term food restrictions, as observed in many slimming women and girls, can be a reason for iron deficiency and also can alter the emotional status of healthy women. Maybe depression symptoms in anorexia or other eating disorders patients can be associated with iron deficiencies.

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