The Silent Epidemic: Iron deficiency is suffocating our teen girls

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Feeling lacklustre, grumpy, irritable and lacking concentration may sound like normal teenage behaviour, but delve a bit deeper and the answer could be in the blood.  Specifically how much oxygen is getting carried around the body and to the brain, all comes down to having enough iron in the body, and why many of our New Zealand teenage girls are suffering as a consequence.

Our latest episode in the Let’s Talk Food NZ podcast series casts the spotlight on the silent epidemic of iron deficiency in our teenage girls, where Ministry of Health data indicates a third don’t achieve their daily iron intake. This data, now a decade old, doesn’t reflect the current changing eating habits, and recent research indicates the epidemic could be worsening.

Given the effects of iron deficiency impact on the quality of life, education, social impacts, not to mention the pressure on the health system, we as a nation should be taking more notice, hence the World Iron Awareness Week campaign was born 5 years ago. 

This podcast is a must listen for parents, teachers, coaches, health practitioners and young people alike.


Check out some tips for enhancing your iron intake here

Browse our great collection of iron-rich recipes here

Learn more about World Iron Awareness Week here

If you or someone in your family is concerned about their health, you should seek the advice of your GP. For tailored nutrition advice, find your nearest Registered Nutritionist or Dietitian


Let’s Talk Food NZ panel:

Nikki Hart (Registered Nutritionist) – a trained dietitian and NZ registered nutritionist with over 25 years’ experience in private practice. She is also a mum to 2 teenage daughters who are National grade trampolinists so understands the importance of a good iron status on performance.

Dr Claire Badenhorst (Massey University) – PhD in Exercise Physiology, specialising in iron metabolism and female health. Lecturer at Massey University in Auckland. Claire is also a keen triathlete in her spare time.

Ashia Ismail-Singer (School Nurse and Author) – a Registered Nurse with 25 years in the profession and currently School Nurse at Westlake Girls High School. She is food writer and author of cookbook My Indian Kitchen as well as mother to a teen daughter.

Jeni Pearce MNZM (High Performance Sport New Zealand) – is one of New Zealand’s leading health and sports dietitians and performance nutritionist, she leads the Performance Nutrition team at HPSNZ. Jeni has authored 3 titles on sports nutrition and health, co-authored research articles and book chapters, and continues to lecture in University nutrition programmes and present at conferences in NZ and off shore and in 2015 she was awarded MNZM for services to Sports Nutrition.

Rachel Stentiford (High Performance Sport New Zealand) – is an Australian-qualified Sports Dietitian who works supporting the New Zealand Para Swimmers in their lead up to the Tokyo Paralympics 2020.  She has worked as a Performance Nutritionist across the world and also has Clinical Dietetics experience in General Medicine, Gastroenterology and Rehabilitation.

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