Iron is the leading nutrient deficiency in women worldwide. However, a recently published study has revealed that a combination of Taiyo’s prebiotic Sunfiber® (partially hydrolysed guar gum PHGG ) and BL-04, the probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis from IFF, may improve the bioavailability of supplemented iron in female athletes.
Women at increased risk
Women – particularly those with high levels of physical activity – are highly susceptible to iron deficiency, a condition that is thought to affect between 30 and 50 per cent of female athletes. As iron is responsible for binding oxygen to the red blood cells, and therefore critical for oxygen transport, mitochondrial energy production and cellular immune response, low levels of the mineral can negatively affect physical performance. Therefore, female endurance athletes, in particular, whose dietary patterns and physical training levels put them at increased risk of iron deficiency, may benefit from the synbiotic combination of fiber and bifido bacteria.
Over a period of eight weeks, scientists conducted a placebo-controlled study with 19 training female athletes with low iron levels. The participants were found to have a hemoglobin level of 12.33 dL and a serum ferritin (sFer) of 18.1 micrograms/L. The women were randomly assigned to receive 140mg of ferrous sulfate per day for a period of eight weeks, plus a synbiotic or placebo. The results were impressive despite the small group: In the synbiotics group the iron status improved significantly more than in the placebo group, and compared to the women’s initial ferritin levels, this group showed a significant increase in iron stores. In conclusion, the study suggests that a low dosage iron supplement (140mg of ferrous sulfate/day) and the synbiotic combination can lead to significantly improved blood iron levels.
Sunfiber® or synbiotic supplements are usually recommended for improving intestinal health and well-being. However, it can now be proved that the combination of PHGG and bifidobacteria has the additional advantage of improving iron status when combined with an iron sulfate supplement. Other studies have previously shown that the intake of prebiotics increases the absorption of minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium. This is because fermentation of prebiotic dietary fiber produces short-chain fatty acids, which lower the pH, thus allowing for improved mineral absorption in the colon.
There is good reason to better understand the ability of prebiotics and probiotics to digest, absorb and metabolize nutrients, as they are important not only for athletic performance and recovery, but also the health status of athletes and the population as a whole. The combination of clinically proven prebiotic Sunfiber® and bifidobacterium lactis used in the study is available as „Regular Girl“ at www.regulargirl.com
Reference: Sandroni, A., House, E., Howard, L. & DellaValle, D.M. (2021). Synbiotic Supplementation Improves Response to Iron Supplementation in Female Athletes during Training. J Diet Suppl, Feb 22;1-15. DOI: 10.1080/19390211.2021.1887423.
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