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An Investigation of Dietary Iron Intake and Literacy among 11–14 Year Old Females in New Zealand †

School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition, College of Health, Massey University, Auckland 0632, New Zealand
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Nutrition Society of New Zealand 2022, Wellington, New Zealand, 1–2 December 2022.
Med. Sci. Forum 2023, 18(1), 23;
Published: 21 March 2023
(This article belongs to the Proceedings of Annual Scientific Meeting of the Nutrition Society of New Zealand 2022)


Iron deficiency is the most prevalent micronutrient deficiency globally and is a common diagnosis in adolescent females. Causal factors for this population include low dietary iron intake, iron bioavailability, increased iron requirements and excessive iron losses. Iron intakes of adolescent females were last analysed in the 2002 New Zealand Children’s Nutrition Survey, reporting an average intake of 9.9mg/day. Up-to-date information on dietary iron intake and literacy in adolescent females is not available to health professionals. Therefore, this study’s aim was to determine dietary iron literacy and its associations with dietary intakes of iron-rich foods in young adolescent females within New Zealand. Females (n = 286) aged 11–14 years from all-girls schools around New Zealand were recruited to complete an anonymous online questionnaire. The questionnaire comprised demographic questions, an adapted iron literacy questionnaire and a validated iron food frequency questionnaire. The results suggest a moderate level of iron literacy in most participants (66.8%, n = 191), with 21.7% (n = 62) demonstrating low dietary iron literacy and 11.5% (n = 33) demonstrating high dietary iron literacy. Vegetarian, pescatarian, and vegan participants had higher iron knowledge scores than those not on a particular diet (p = 0.001). Age had a weak relationship with iron knowledge score category (χ2 = 6.27, p = 0.044). Significant differences were found between ethnic groups and food group consumption frequency. Seafood and legumes, eggs, nuts and seeds were eaten more frequently among Asian participants, while iron-fortified foods were eaten more frequently among Māori participants. Participants from higher decile schools were found to consume red meat (p = 0.009), seafood (p = 0.024) and fruit (p = 0.021) more frequently than those from moderate decile schools. There was no relationship between dietary iron literacy score and intake of iron-rich foods. Our results demonstrate that iron literacy is low to moderate among adolescent females within New Zealand and is not associated with current dietary iron intake behaviours. Future studies may consider educational interventions to change intake behaviours, and objective measures of iron status and food intake via biochemical data and food recalls.

Author Contributions

Conceptualisation, methodology, R.J., C.E.B., P.v.H. and J.K. Investigation, R.J. Data curation, R.J. and H.M. Writing—original draft preparation, R.J. Writing—review and editing, R.J., C.E.B., P.v.H. and H.M. Supervision, C.E.B. and P.v.H. Project administration, R.J. Funding acquisition, C.E.B. and P.v.H. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research was funded by Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

Institutional Review Board Statement

This project has been evaluated by a peer review and judged as low-risk. Consequently, it has not been reviewed by one of the University’s Human Ethics Committees. The researcher(s) named in this document are responsible for the ethical conduct of this research. If you have any concerns about the conduct of this research that you want to raise with someone other than the researcher(s), please contact Professor Craig Johnson, Director of Research Ethics, by emailing [email protected] (reference 4000025457).

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study, prior to their completion of the questionnaire.

Data Availability Statement

Raw data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author, upon reasonable request.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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MDPI and ACS Style

Jansen, R.; von Hurst, P.; Keightley, J.; Mazahery, H.; Badenhorst, C.E. An Investigation of Dietary Iron Intake and Literacy among 11–14 Year Old Females in New Zealand. Med. Sci. Forum 2023, 18, 23.

AMA Style

Jansen R, von Hurst P, Keightley J, Mazahery H, Badenhorst CE. An Investigation of Dietary Iron Intake and Literacy among 11–14 Year Old Females in New Zealand. Medical Sciences Forum. 2023; 18(1):23.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Jansen, Renee, Pamela von Hurst, Jerushah Keightley, Hajar Mazahery, and Claire E. Badenhorst. 2023. "An Investigation of Dietary Iron Intake and Literacy among 11–14 Year Old Females in New Zealand" Medical Sciences Forum 18, no. 1: 23.

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