Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The relationship between diet and anaemia is explained.

Anaemia is most often manifested by a deficiency in the quantity of haemoglobin, or the size or number of red blood cells, iron deficiency anaemia is directly related to diet.

Iron Deficiency Anaemia

The following conditions are present in individuals with this disease :

  1. a below normal serum haemoglobin level
  2. the average size of red blood cells are smaller than normal
  3. blood with a lighter red colour than normal
  4. the total haemoglobin concentration in red blood cells are fewer than normal

Causes of Iron Deficiency Anaemia

  1. depleted iron stores
  2. increased losses of iron (e.g. in urine, sweat, internal bleeding, injury, etc.)

Symptoms of Anaemia

Fatigue, paleness, increase incidence and duration of infection, mood changes, diminished appetite and decreased aerobic capacity.

Haemoglobin carries oxygen in the blood to muscles and other cells. Therefore, anaemia can affect sports performance, especially in athletes who engage in endurance events.

Sources of Dietary Iron

Haem iron

- highly absorbable
- found in meat, seafood, poultry

Non-haem iron

- less absorbable than haem iron
- found in cereal, beans, leafy vegetables and eggs

Major Sources of Dietary Iron

Breads and Cereals

Breakfast cereals, pasta, bread and baked goods which are made with iron fortified flour e.g. biscuits, pancakes etc.

Fruits and Vegetables

Broccoli, spinach, pak choy, Chinese kale, dried fruits like raisins, prunes

Meats, Beans and Bean Products

Red meat, liver, poultry, fish, oyster, clam, scallop, egg yolk, soybeans, tofu, kidney beans, lentils

Milk and Dairy Products

Iron fortified milk powder e.g. Carnation, Ensure, Sustacal, Enercal

Percentage of Iron in Food Absorbed by the Body

Percentage of Iron Absorption

meat/seafood 10 - 20 %
eggs 1 - 3 %
rice 1 - 2 %

How to Increase Iron Intake and Absorption ?

  1. Increase iron content of food by cooking with iron cookware, e.g. an iron wok.
  2. Limit use of foods containing inhibitors of iron absorption, e.g. tea, coffee, excessive dietary fibre, (e.g. from fibre supplements).
  3. Increase the use of foods containing enhancers of iron absorption, e.g. vitamin C, food from animal sources.

Excessive Amounts of Iron May have Detrimental Effects Excessive iron intake is usually caused by taking supplements and not from food sources. Iron intake of 100 mg or more a a day can interfere with the absorption of other minerals such as copper, zinc, causing deficiencies of these nutrients. Iron in excess will be deposited in liver cells causing symptoms of cirrhosis. It may also deposit in joints, pancreas, heart and lungs.

Iron is an important component in haemoglobin. A diet which is adaquate in iron can prevent iron deficiency anaemia.

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