Iron is an essential micronutrient for oxygen transport and mitochondrial metabolism and is critical for physical performance. Compromised iron stores are more commonly found among athletes, and females are especially at risk. Iron deficiency is generally treated using oral iron supplements. However, only a small proportion of ingested iron is absorbed, necessitating higher intakes, which may result in adverse side effects, reduced compliance, and inefficient repletion of iron stores. The probiotic strain Lactobacillus plantarum
299v (Lp299v) significantly increases intestinal iron absorption in meal studies. The present study was conducted to explore the effects of 20 mg of iron with or without Lp299v on iron status, mood state, and physical performance. Fifty-three healthy non-anemic female athletes with low iron stores (ferritin < 30 μg/L) were randomized, and 39 completed the study. Intake of Lp299v with iron for four weeks increased ferritin levels more than iron alone (13.6 vs. 8.2 µg/L), but the difference between the groups was not significant (p
= 0.056). The mean reticulocyte hemoglobin content increased after intake of Lp299v compared to control (1.5 vs. 0.82 pg) after 12 weeks, but the difference between the group was not significant (p
= 0.083). The Profile of Mood States (POMS) questionnaire showed increased vigor with Lp299v vs. iron alone after 12 weeks (3.5 vs. 0.1, p
= 0.015). No conclusive effects on physical performance were observed. In conclusion, Lp299v, together with 20 mg of iron, could result in a more substantial and rapid improvement in iron status and improved vigor compared to 20 mg of iron alone. A larger clinical trial is needed to further explore these findings as well as the impact of Lp299v on physical performance.
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