Thursday, August 31, 2006

food nutrition : Many female athletes don't get proper nutrition

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The number one nutritional concern for female athletes today is not whether they are drinking or eating too much but whether they are getting as much nutrition as they need, according to a University of Idaho researcher.

Based on her review of studies on the topic, Dr. Kathe A. Gabel advises the parents of female athletes to be aware that it is critical for girls to develop healthful eating habits at home and within the sports arena.

A previously published review revealed that female long-distance runners had the highest risk of iron, calcium and other mineral deficiencies, Gabel reports in this month's issue of Current Sports Medicine Reports.

The findings of a Canadian survey showed that many female athletes take vitamin or mineral supplements to meet their body's dietary needs. In fact, researchers who studied a group of female dancers found that they consumed only about 30 percent or less of the daily-recommended calories. These dancers commonly displayed symptoms of the female athlete triad: disordered eating; cessation of menstruation, known as amenorrhea; and osteoporosis.

This triad, first recognized in 1992 by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), still remains a concern, Gabel reports. A survey of 170 female athletes in Southern California published earlier this year revealed that 18 percent or more met the criteria for disordered eating, irregular menstrual cycles and low bone mass.

Menstrual irregularities in particular are known to affect between 6 percent to 79 percent of female athletes, depending on the sport and its intensity. Causes of amenorrhea include severe emotional stress, deficits in energy, and athletic training that emphasizes leanness, Gabel notes.

When athletes skip meals, fast or consume fewer calories than their bodies require, they many deplete energy stores, potentially leading to irregularities in their menstrual cycle, she explains, which has been linked to subsequent low bone density. Disordered eating has also been directly linked to low bone density.

Susceptible female athletes should be treated with a multidisciplinary approach involving physicians, dietitians and psychologists, and possibly athletic trainers and exercise physiologists as well, in addition to coaches and parents, according to Gabel's report.

Gable stressed the need for parents to be able to recognize signs of disordered eating, including changes in their child's eating habits or frequently skipped meals. Parents should also know which health professionals are available and "where to go for help," she told Reuters Health.

By Charnicia Huggins


Post a Comment