The objective of this study was to determine iron, folate and vitamin B12 status of Ethiopian professional athletes and to see if any significantgender and running distance categoryforall hematological variables.
A cross sectional study was conducted using a point time sampling of 101 male and female Ethiopian professional athletes of different distance category was taken in the period of February to April 2014. Biochemical samples, detail health and exercise related interview, performance data, 24 h dietary diversity and weekly food frequency were collected.
The low, medium and high dietary diversity terciles were 36.1, 60.9 and 3.3 % respectively. The mean ± Sd of dietary diversity was 5.44 ± 1.8. Prevalence of iron overload (Serum ferritin >200 µg/L) was 11%, whereas that of anemia (Hb <12 g/dL), iron deficiency (ferritin<12 µg/L) and moderate folate deficiency (<5.9 ng/mL) was 3.0, 2.0 and 20.8% respectively. There was no iron deficiency anemia case in the study. In the present study, the mean serum vitamin B12 concentration was 561 ± 231 pg/ml with a minimum and maximum value of 210 and 1736 pg/ml respectively, and there was no deficiency for this nutrient (>210 pg/ml). There was a significant difference b/n male and female athletes for their red blood cell (RBC), hemoglobin (Hb), feritin and transferin level at (p<0.0001). The iron status of male athletes was significantly differed by running-distance categories. In contrast, such difference was absent for female athletes. Performance of the athletes was associated with their red blood cell count (RBC) at p= 0.03. The high performer athletes exhibited high mean value of micronutrient status and hematological variables than their counter parts. However, the RBC of the athletes was the only parameter whose association was statistically significant.
The observed gender difference in the association of running-distance category with iron and folate in this study needs further investigation. Given the 11% iron overload in the present study; there is a need of awerance creation activities and diet intervention strategies to be given for the athletes, inorder to not aggravate the present overload. Prescription of supplements such as iron-folate, multivitamins and minerals should not be based on broad spectrum; rather it should be based on recent history of confirmed deficiency, clinical signs and laboratory testing to prevent trace element toxicity.