Poor Eating Habits May Lead to Anemia in Older Women

Study finds that as nutrient intake declines, risk rises

FRIDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- A poor diet is associated with a greater risk of developing anemia among postmenopausal women, a new study has found.

Researchers analyzed data from 72,833 older women in the United States and found that deficiencies in more than a single nutrient were associated with a 21 percent increased risk of persistent anemia. Risk increased 44 percent with deficiencies in three nutrients.

Women with anemia consumed less protein, folate, vitamin B12, iron, vitamin C and red meat than did others, the study found. The results are published in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Inadequate nutrient intake was less frequent among whites than in other racial or ethnic groups: 7.4 percent, compared with 14.6 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders, 15.2 percent of Native Americans/Alaskans, 15.3 percent of blacks and 16.3 percent of Hispanics.

The researchers also found that the use of multivitamin and mineral supplements was not associated with lower rates of anemia. Age, body mass index and smoking were associated with anemia.

Anemia has been linked to an increased risk of death and, "anemia, particularly iron deficiency, has been associated with reduced capacity for physical work and physical inactivity, injury related to falls and hospitalizations, making this an important health-care concern in the aging," lead investigator Cynthia A. Thomson, associate professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said in a journal news release.

"Efforts to identify anemia that may be responsive to modifiable factors, such as diet to improve health outcomes, are needed," the researchers concluded. "Additional efforts to regularly evaluate postmenopausal women for anemia should be considered and should be accompanied by an assessment of dietary intake to determine adequacy of intake of anemia-associated nutrients, including iron, vitamin B12 and folate," they wrote.

"While the type of anemia is often designated by a more comprehensive biochemical assessment than hemoglobin alone, nutritional therapy to improve overall nutrient-density and quality of the diet should also be a clinical focus," Thomson and colleagues said.

More information

WomensHealth.gov has more about anemia.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, news release, March 25, 2011

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