Iron-fortified nutrition bars could help treat anaemia, a severe problem in Indian women. Though iron supplements are a commonly used treatment for anaemia, this study – published on January 18th in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – adds further potential for food supplementation on a more widespread scale.
The study was conducted over a 90 day period and involved 361 non-pregnant women aged 18-35 from 10 sites across Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. The women were given anaemia education as well as blood tests to check iron levels prior to the study. After this random allocation was made to either treatment or a control group. Those in the treatment group were given one supplement bar containing 14mg of iron each day over the 90 day period the study was conducted. Those in the control group were not given any supplements.
Further blood tests were then administered to those in the treatment group on the 15th, 45th and 90th days of the study. The initial haemoglobin concentrations and haematocrit percentages taken before the trial were then compared to the data at 90 days.
The results obtained were decidedly positive. Of the subjects that were found to have anaemia at the start of the study 136 completed the trials to the 90 day mark (65 intervention and 71 control). Both haemoglobin and haematocrit levels were raised in the treatment group. It was found that percentages of those still deemed to be anaemic differed by a statistically significant degree between groups. Of the control group, 98.6 percent still fell under diagnosis of anaemia, in the treatment group the number fell to 29.2 percent.
A reduction in the number of patients by 70% with a simple iron supplement is tremendously encouraging. The digestive tract upset that commonly follows iron tablets was entirely absent. The bar itself, developed by lead author of the study Rajvi Mehta, is made from locally-sourced Indian produce and meets the World Health Organization’s recommended daily intake of iron.
Comparable studies in women have found that a potential 59 percent of adult women in India may have at least mild anaemia. This statistic increases to a potential 80 percent among pregnant women. This may explain the high mortality rates during pregnancy in India. Iron deficient anaemia during pregnancy has the potential to cause both a heightened risk of mortality for the mother, as well as the potential for preterm delivery and complications for the child, according to the American Society of Hematology
The study proves that this is a problem that can be addressed in a very simple manner. iIt displays a method of intervention with no need for medical procedures, using a dietary supplement made from local Indian produce.