Iron supplements and endurance Featured science projectScience project video

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Complexity level:
7
Project cost ($):
200
Time required:
1 hour to prepare, 14 days to conduct the science project experiment
Material availability:
You will need access to a doctor and the necessary equipment to perform the iron-deficiency tests. You will also need access to a gymnasium for the treadmill.
Safety concerns:

Ensure that a doctor is consulted before the iron supplements are prescribed to the participants.

Abstract

This science fair project was done to investigate the effect of iron supplements consumption on the athletic performance of women with iron deficiencies.

Hypothesis

Women athletes with iron deficiencies can better their performance with iron supplements.
 

Background

Iron deficiency

Iron is a very important mineral in the production of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an important protein found in our red blood cells as it helps to transport oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood cells.

Iron is stored in our bodies as ferritin. When the body needs to replace new blood cells, it will first use the available ferritin in the liver. If all the ferritin has been used up, hemoglobin levels will fall. This may lead to the onset of anemia.

Having iron and hemoglobin shortages in the body will reduce the supply of oxygen to the muscles. This will result in the muscles being unable to produce energy, leading to tiredness, fatigue and poor endurance. For athletes, this can adversely affect their performance.

Athletes have a tendency to suffer from iron deficiencies because of intensive physical exercise and heavy sweating. This is more so for women athletes because of their monthly menstrual cycles. When athletes are deficient in iron, their physical and mental energy can also be adversely affected.

Iron supplements are therefore important for athletes who suffer from iron deficiencies.
 

Scientific Terms

Iron, hemoglobin, red blood cell, anemia, ferritin, liver

Materials

The materials required for this  science fair project:

-    20 women age 20 to 25 years who have iron deficiencies
-    a practicing doctor, to help test the participants for iron deficiency
-    A treadmill
-    A stopwatch
-    140 tablets of iron supplements , 100mg each
-    140 tablets of placebo

Procedure

1.    For this science fair project, the independent variable is whether the participant is given the iron tablets, or not. The dependent variable is the time taken by the women to run 5 km on the treadmill. The time taken by the women to run the 5 km is measured with a stopwatch. The constants (control variables) are the age of the participants, the distance the participants have to run on the treadmill, the length of time they have been taking the supplement and the dosage of the supplements.

2.    Twenty women athletes between ages 20 to 25 years old are selected to take part in this experiment. All of them are examined by the doctor and blood tests are taken to confirm that they have iron deficiencies.

3.    The women are made to run 5 km on the treadmill and their timings recorded. They are then divided into 2 groups of 10 persons each so that the average time for running 5 km on the treadmill in each group is almost the same. The average time is calculated by totaling the time taken by all the runners in the group and dividing by 10. Their groups are labeled Group 1 and Group 2 respectively. Their average time is recorded in the table given below.

4.    The women in Group 1 are made to take 1 tablet of iron supplement daily for the next 2 weeks while the women in Group 2 are made to take 1 tablet of placebo each day. During the two weeks, the women are allowed the same amount of time for exercise/training. Ensure that training is moderately intensive, at the very most.

5.    At the end of  2 weeks, the women are made to run 5 km on the treadmill again. Their individual times are noted and the new average time for each group is calculated. The results are recorded in the table given below.
 

Observation

The results show that the women in Group 1 who took the iron tablets daily were able to better their time taken to complete the 5 km run on the treadmill. Whereas the women in Group 2 (given the placebo) did not show any improvement in their performance.
 

Group Time taken to complete 5 km on treadmill (minutes)
  Before consuming supplements After consuming supplements
1 – provided with iron supplement 24.7 22.9
2 – provided with placebo 24.9 24.6

The graph below represents the results of our science experiment:

iron deficiency science fair project

Conclusion

The hypothesis that women athletes with iron deficiencies perform better with iron supplements is proven to be correct.

About 40% to 80% of women in developing countries have iron deficiencies. Women who are vegetarians, or if they are pre-menopausal and those who are active in physical activities are especially vulnerable to having iron shortages in their body. Iron supplements are beneficial, but as always, you should consult a doctor or a nutritionist before taking them.

Also consider

This science fair project can also be done by testing women with normal iron levels. However, participants need to consult a doctor before taking the supplements.

Will you see the same results with male athletes?
 

References

Iron supplement benefits depend on stage of deficiency - http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Iron-supplement-benefits-depend-on-stage-of-deficiency

Iron and the endurance athlete - http://home.trainingpeaks.com/articles/nutrition/iron-and-the-endurance-athlete.aspx
 

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