Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Physiology 2012 (Edinburgh) (2012) Proc Physiol Soc 27, PC129

Poster Communications

Trace metal ranges in elite international athletes

C. González-Haro1,2, B. Moore1, N. Lewis1,3, A. Hodgson1, L. Tighe1, C. Watters1

1. ORRECO Ltd., The Innovation Centre, Institute of Technology, Sligo, Ireland. 2. Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, School of Medicine, Zaragoza, Spain. 3. English Institute of Sport, Bath, United Kingdom.


Many authors have suggested the importance of trace elements such as Zinc (Zn), Copper (Cu) and Selenium (Se); as well as Magnesium (Mg) in the function of different physiological systems for physical performance in sport including energy metabolism; nervous, muscle, function, and immune function; blood and bone health; and fluid electrolyte balance. These metals should be maintained within normal ranges as either deficiency or toxicity, have adverse effects on both general health and athletic performance (1-3). Suggested normal ranges for these elements are for Cu: 11.0-25.0 µmol/L, Zn: 10.7-24.5 µmol/L, Se: 0.89-1.65 µmol/L (4) and Mg: 0.66-1.00 mmol/L (5). There are very few articles in the literature that examine trace metal and Mg status of elite international athletes. Thus, the aim of this study is to evaluate the ranges of serum trace elements and Mg in elite international athletes from different sports. 60 male (27.4 ± 3.6 yrs) and 29 female (25.5 ± 4.0 yrs) elite international athletes (Football, Athletics, Canoeing, Sailing, Modern Pentathlon), the cohort which included a number of World and Olympic champions, from whom were drawn an average of 3 blood tests over the course of two seasons of International competition (2010-2011). All athletes were following their own nutritional programs as advised by the teams. Se, Cu, Zn and Mg were measured in plasma. Results were expressed as mean ± SD and as 95% CI. Differences between male and female were compared by an equal or unequal variance Student's t-test for unpaired data after a F-test. Statistical significance was set at P<0.05. Plasma Cu, Se, Zn and Mg levels can be observed in the table placed below. It is interesting to note that the 95% CI for each element measured was narrower than the reference ranges suggested in literature for healthy adult populations, with the exception of plasma Zn level for female athletes, amongst whom a higher range was observed. Furthermore, there were no differences in Se and Zn between genders, although Mg was significant higher for male and Cu for female. The average serum level of trace elements and Mg is within the normal range of normality although the 95% CI for the elite international athletes of this study is narrower than the reference ranges suggested in the literature for healthy adult population. Further research into the trace metal status of elite athletes from a range of modalities is warranted and that sport specific reference ranges may prove useful when assessing the specific needs for individual athletes.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements