Female athletes: a population at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies affecting health and performance

J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2014 Oct;28(4):388-92. doi: 10.1016/j.jtemb.2014.06.022. Epub 2014 Jul 5.


Adequate vitamin and mineral status is essential for optimal human health and performance. Female athletes could be at risk for vitamin and mineral insufficiency due to inadequate dietary intake, menstruation, and inflammatory responses to heavy physical activity. Recent studies have documented poor iron status and associated declines in both cognitive and physical performance in female athletes. Similarly, insufficient vitamin D and calcium status have been observed in female athletes, and may be associated with injuries, such as stress fracture, which may limit a female athlete's ability to participate in regular physical activity. This review will focus on recent studies detailing the prevalence of poor vitamin and mineral status in female athletes, using iron, vitamin D, and calcium as examples. Factors affecting the dietary requirement for these vitamins and minerals during physical training will be reviewed. Lastly, countermeasures for the prevention of inadequate vitamin and mineral status will be described.

Keywords: Calcium; Exercise; Female athlete; Iron; Vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iron / blood
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Minerals / blood*
  • Minerals / metabolism
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamins / blood*
  • Vitamins / metabolism


  • Minerals
  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin D
  • Iron