Background/Aims: Iron deficiency (ID) is the most prevalent nutrient deficiency within the developed world. One in five Australian women (25-50yrs) is affected and this is concerning as ID has been shown to affect immunity, thermoregulation, work performance and cognition. Animal flesh foods provide the richest and most bioavailable source of dietary (haem) iron, however it is unclear if a low animal flesh diet contributes to ID. The aim of this systematic review was to investigate whether a higher consumption of animal flesh foods is associated with better iron status in adults.
Methods: CINAHL, Cochrane, EMBASE and MEDLINE were searched for published studies that included adults (≥18 years) from developed countries and measured flesh intakes in relation to iron status indices. Included studies were assessed for methodological quality by two reviewers and results were described in narrative format.
Results: Eight experimental and 39 observational studies met the inclusion criteria. Overall, included studies varied in population and study designs and results were conflicting. Five of the seven studies that rated positively for methodological quality suggested a positive association between animal flesh intake and iron status. It remains unclear if there is an optimum quantity or frequency of flesh intake required to maintain or achieve a healthy iron status.
Conclusion: Evidence from this review shows promising results for an effect between animal flesh intake and iron status, however additional longitudinal and experimental studies are required to confirm this effect and determine optimal intakes to reduce the likelihood of ID.
Funding source(s): N/A