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Gastrointestinal Blood Loss and Anemia in Runners

JAMES G. STEWART, B.S.; DAVID A. AHLQUIST, M.D.; DOUGLAS B. McGILL, M.D.; DUANE M. ILSTRUP, M.S.; SAMUEL SCHWARTZ, M.D.; and RICHARD A. OWEN, M.D.
[+] Article and Author Information

Grant support: in part by the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation.

▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to David A. Ahlquist, M.D.; Department of Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 200 S.W. First Street; Rochester, MN 55905.


Rochester and Minneapolis, Minnesota


© 1984 American College of PhysiciansAmerican College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1984;100(6):843-845. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-100-6-843
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Iron deficiency, with or without anemia, occurs commonly in long-distance runners, but the cause is unknown. The recent development of a simple quantitative assay for fecal hemoglobin, HemoQuant, allowed us to study whether gastrointestinal bleeding occurs in runners. Blood and stool samples were collected from 24 runners before and after a race of 10 to 42.2 km and from age- and sex-matched, nonrunning controls. The mean blood hemoglobin level and hematocrit were significantly lower in runners than in controls. Serum ferritin levels were below normal in 4 runners but in no controls. Fecal hemoglobin levels increased in 20 of 24 runners (p < 0.01) after a race. Mean fecal hemoglobin level was 1.08 mg/g (range, 0.11 to 2.36) in controls and 0.99 mg/g (0.18 to 2.41) in runners before a race, but peaked at 3.96 mg/g (0.37 to 43.20) after a race. Competitive long-distance running induces gastrointestinal blood loss and may contribute to iron deficiency.

Topics

anemia ; hemorrhage

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