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Pump That Iron!
Nearly two billion people around the world suffer from iron deficiency, according to estimates from the World Health Organization.
Given these statistics, it is clear why this is arguably the most common type of nutritional deficiency today. As a matter of fact, curbing iron deficiency is deemed a critical global health priority second only to HIV/AIDS.
Without proper remedy, iron deficiency may likely result in anemia – specifically IDA (iron deficiency anemia). Also known as sideropenic anemia, this is iron deficiency in its advanced stage.
Generally, anemia is caused by a lack hemoglobin (red blood cells), in the blood. When the body has no adequate supply of iron, hemoglobin slows in production thereby reducing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the blood. This then causes fatigue, dizziness and decreased stamina. In severe cases, anemia can lead to shortness of breath or worse, heart problems.
It has been widely reported by various academic journals and scholarly articles that IDA is the most common form of anemia. The main issue with this type of anemia is that human bodies take a long time to replenish iron: It typically takes about 5-7 days for the body to start producing red blood cells. This can result in an increase in hemoglobin levels within 2-3 weeks of starting treatments with iron supplements, or vitamin supplements.
Low iron levels may be a precursor to other health problems such as malnutrition due to a poor diet characterized by a shortage of vital nutrients and minerals. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition titled Prevalence of Iron Deficiency and Iron Deficiency Anemia among Three Populations of Female Military Personnel in the US Arm, Dr. James P. McClung and three other doctors have noted that although the occurrence of iron deficiency is higher in third-world countries, there is still a continued marked prevalence of it in the United States, especially among young women.
They have deduced that “iron deficiency is a serious US public health problem, affecting up to 16% of females between the ages of 12-49. The prevalence of iron deficiency is greater in non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American females (19-22%) than in non-Hispanic white females (10%). Furthermore, data from the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey study indicates that the overall prevalence of iron deficiency anemia is highest in females between the ages of 20-49″.”
In the US alone, around 7.8 million females, including girls in their adolescent stage and women of childbearing age and roughly 700,000 children age two years old and below are affected. This is mainly because women in their childbearing years have greater iron needs to meet, mostly owing to blood loss due to menses, the increased iron demands of pregnancy and blood loss during childbirth. Adolescent girls, aside from menstrual reasons, are also highly at risk because of the diets they follow that promote weight loss, no matter how unhealthy. Diets like these commonly call for a decreased meat intake, which is not at all recommended at this stage in their lives when iron needs escalate. Very young children have also been shown to be susceptible to iron deficiency because of their unbalanced diets coinciding with their rapidly developing bodies.
In order to effectively combat iron deficiency, eating iron-rich foods is the most viable solution. Meats have excellent iron content, providing the necessary amount to sustain proper iron levels. It is also important to note that iron from meat sources is better absorbed by the body compared to the iron obtained from plants. Nutritional supplements specifically made to boost iron levels are another good option. Moreover, calcium and vitamin C can increase your iron levels by assisting the body in iron absorption and supporting healthy living.
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