Multiple studies across the world, credited and peer reviewed, present strong evidence that iron deficiency has and continues to be the world’s most common nutritional deficiency. This being the case we have sought to review the facts across multiple sources and present a summary of the findings across a 3-part article series.
The first of these articles will report on the unified agreement across multiple sources of research to give evidence that iron deficiency is indeed our most common nutritional deficiency problem that can lead to anemia. In addition a definition of anemia and an overview of study suggesting that iron deficiency is the main cause leading to anemia.
The second article will build on the facts surrounding iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia for where these nutritional disorders are a concern for pregnant women. An overview of the symptoms and impacts on the mother and her unborn baby and for the child in early childhood years.
The third and final article will present advice from Dr Gary Swift on preventative action towards iron deficiency and treatment response for pregnant women who show signs of anemia.
Iron deficiency anemia – an introduction
Let us now begin first with defining iron deficiency.
The World Health Organisation presents a definition within its 2001 release ‘Iron Deficiency Anaemia Assessment, Prevention, and Control – A guide for programme managers’
““Iron deficiency is defined as a condition in which there are no mobilizable
iron stores and in which signs of a compromised supply of iron to tissues,
including the erythron, are noted. The more severe stages of iron deficiency
are associated with anemia.”
Jeffery L. Miller works at the Molecular Medicine Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Miller explains that iron deficiency related anemia occurs when,
“the balance of iron intake, iron stores, and the body’s loss of iron are insufficient to fully support production of erythrocytes. Iron deficiency anemia rarely causes death, but the impact on human health is significant.”
Krafft, Murray-Kolb, and NilsMilman are professional contributors for the division of Obstetrics, Department Obstetrics and Gynecology in University Hospital Zurich. Their 2012 publication supports the notion that iron deficiency is,
“…still the world’s most common nutritional deficiency, and generally, iron deficiency anemia is the most prevalent form of anemia.”
According to Veng-Pedersen et al, anemia is related to a decrease in red blood cell (RBC) mass.
“The function of the RBC is to deliver oxygen from the lungs to the tissues and carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. This is accomplished by using hemoglobin (Hb), a tetramer protein composed of heme and globin. Anemia impairs the body’s ability for gas exchange by decreasing the number of RBCs transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide”
Seeming that the functions of our body are reliant upon regular oxygen supply, anemia indeed presents significant concerns to the long term health of an individual. Australian dietician, Dr Amanda Patterson, said that whilst Australia does not have as high a level of iron deficiency within its population compared to the rest of the world, the level itself is still unacceptable. Her comments in a 2011 article posted on healthyfoodguide.com held the view that “25–30 per cent of women of childbearing age have a moderate form of iron deficiency.”
Patterson’s remarks hint at a warning for women to consider maintaining healthy iron levels when they are at childbearing age. Her position is indeed not isolated and our 2nd article will address this in more detail.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION 2001. Iron Deficiency Anaemia. Assessment, Prevention, and Control – A guide for programme managers. Geneva, World Health Organization.
Iron Deficiency Anemia: A Common and Curable Disease. Jeffery L. Miller. Molecular Medicine Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases,
National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med 2013; doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a011866 originally published online April 23, 2013. Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.