News

Iron fortification reduces the risk of anemia

July 18, 2012

Fortifying foods with iron is effective and could be a viable public health option to help combat iron deficiency, says a new review from India.

To evaluate the effect of iron fortification in the context of iron deficiency and anemia, the meta-analysis included data from 60 randomized controlled trials (1). The analysis showed that fortifying foods with iron resulted in a significant increase in hemoglobin concentrations, and a reduced risk of anemia and iron deficiency. No instances of zinc depletion were observed – a theoretical risk of iron fortification, particularly in vegetarian populations with very low zinc intake.

The researchers noted that iron deficiency anemia is a widespread problem with health and economic consequences, such as poor cognitive development in children, lower worker productivity, and increased maternal mortality (2). Anemia affects nearly one third of the world’s population, primarily infants and young children in developing countries (3). Dietary strategies to counter anemia include iron supplementation or fortification, or dietary modification. It is often proposed that food fortification is the most realistic way to increase iron intake on a widespread and sustainable basis, and it is currently implemented above all in the United States, Britain, and most of Latin America. Biofortification of crops is also currently being intensively researched, with experts hoping it will provide a more sustainable and complementary alternative to food fortification.

References

  1. Gera T. et al. Effect of iron-fortified foods on hematologic and biological outcomes: systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. Published online July 2012.

  2.  Sachdev H. et al. Effect of iron supplementation on mental and motor development in children: systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Public Health Nutr. 2005; 8:117–132.

  3. United Nations Administrative Committee on Coordination Sub-Committee on Nutrition. Fourth Report on the World Nutrition Situation. Geneva, Switzerland: ACC/SCN in collaboration with International Food Policy Research Institute, 2000.