Iron nutrition and premenopausal women: effects of poor iron status on physical and neuropsychological performance

Annu Rev Nutr. 2013;33:271-88. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-071812-161205. Epub 2013 Apr 29.


Iron is a nutritionally essential trace element that functions through incorporation into proteins and enzymes, many of which contribute to physical and neuropsychological performance. Poor iron status, including iron deficiency (ID; diminished iron stores) and iron deficiency anemia (IDA; poor iron stores and diminished hemoglobin), affects billions of people worldwide. This review focuses on physical and neuropsychological outcomes associated with ID and IDA in premenopausal women, as the prevalence of ID and IDA is often greater in premenopausal women than other population demographics. Recent studies addressing the physiological effects of poor iron status on physical performance, including work productivity, voluntary activity, and athletic performance, are addressed. Similarly, the effects of iron status on neurological performance, including cognition, affect, and behavior, are summarized. Nutritional countermeasures for the prevention of poor iron status and the restoration of decrements in performance outcomes are described.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / etiology
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / physiopathology*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / prevention & control
  • Animals
  • Behavioral Symptoms
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Iron, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / prevention & control
  • Nutritional Status
  • Premenopause
  • Psychomotor Performance


  • Iron, Dietary