Increasing iron intake alone will not reduce anemia: NIN study
The study said that increasing iron intake alone without addressing poverty related constraints like poor diet quality and high load of infections may not result in intended benefits for anemia reduction
Hyderabad: Increasing the supply of iron supplements among poorer and rural communities is not enough to address the scourge of anemia prevalence in the country, a recent study by researchers from city-based National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), which was published in the internationally reputed Journal of Nutrition, said.
The study that analysed data on iron deficiency in the blood samples collected in the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) conducted in 2016-18 under MOHFW, said that increasing iron intake alone without addressing poverty related constraints like poor diet quality, which hampers iron absorption and utilisation, and high load of infections may not result in intended benefits for anemia reduction.
“When anemia prevalence increases in surveys, usually, interventions through supplemental iron tablets or iron fortification of foods are intensified. But are these solutions that focus merely on increasing intake of iron enough to reduce anemia prevalence in India? It does not seem so as per this recent study,” says Director of NIN, Dr R Hemalatha.
The study included a representative sample of more than 33,000 children and adolescents from across India. The results showed that about 30 to 32 per cent of preschool children and adolescent girls had iron deficiency whereas this proportion was lower (11-15%) in case of children aged 5-9 years.
Although anemia prevalence was higher in the rural poor children and adolescents, their iron status was better. The researchers ascribe this to possible inefficient utilisation of stored iron for hemoglobin synthesis in the poorer children and adolescents.
The lead author of the study, Dr Bharati Kulkarni said, “Diet quality is important for efficient hemoglobin synthesis, as iron is not the only nutrient required; many other nutrients are also essential. Therefore, the underutilisation of iron for hemoglobin synthesis in poorer communities could be linked with overall low diet quality, particularly low intake of animal source foods and fruits. Additionally, highly prevalent infections due to an unhygienic environment also reduce iron absorption and utilisation for hemoglobin synthesis”.
The researchers called for population level estimates of iron deficiency can be helpful to understand the anemia amenable to iron supplementation interventions.
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