Nutritional anemia among post-menopausal women is preventable; recent data on prevalence are limited.
To investigate the association between nutrient intakes and anemia prevalence, in relation to both incidence and persistence, in a longitudinal sample of post-menopausal women. We hypothesized that anemia prevalence, incidence and persistence would be greater among women reporting lower intake of B12, folate and iron.
Prospective cohort analysis.
Observational Cohort of the Women’s Health Initiative(WHI-OS) including 93,676 postmenopausal women, age 50 to 79 years, were recruited across the United States at 40 clinical study sites. Women were enrolled between 1993 and 1998; data collection for these analyses continued through 2000.
Main outcome measures
Anemia was defined as a blood hemoglobin concentration of <12.0 mg/dL. Persistent anemia was defined as anemia present at each measurement time point. Diet was assessed by food frequency questionnaire for iron, folate, B12, red meat and cold breakfast cereal; inadequacies were based on dietary reference intakes for women over age 50 years.
Descriptive statistics (mean and standard deviation) were used to characterize the population demographics, anemia rates and diet. Unconditional logistic regression was used to investigate associations between diet and incident and persistent anemia. Associations are presented as odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).
Anemia was identified in 3,979 women or 5.5% of the cohort. Inadequate intakes of multiple anemia-associated nutrients were less frequent in non-Hispanic whites (7.4%) than other race/ethnic groups (inadequacies demonstrated in 14.6 to 16.3% of sample). Age, body mass index and smoking were associated with anemia. Women with anemia reported lower intakes of energy, protein, folate, B12, iron, vitamin C and red meat. Multiple (more than a single nutrient) dietary deficiencies were associated with a 21% greater risk of persistent anemia (OR-1.21, 95% CI: 1.05–1.41) and three deficiencies resulted in a 44% increase in risk for persistent anemia (OR-1.44, 95% CI: 1.20–1.73).
Inadequate nutrient intake, a modifiable condition, is associated with greater risk for anemia in post-menopausal women participating in the WHI-OS. Efforts to identify and update incidence estimates for anemia-associated nutrient deficiencies in aging women should be undertaken.