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Iron Deficiency Anemia - A tiresome disease

By Nayab Fatima

Iron deficiency anemia is a major type of anemia and is a well-known consequence of iron deficiency. In this case, the patient’s body runs short of hemoglobin, a major constituent of red blood cells, and results in the poor oxygen-carrying capacity of affected cells. Iron deficiency anemia represents itself in the form of lethargy, paleness of skin and eyes, dyspnea, tachycardia, dizziness, brittle nails, poor appetite, pagophagia, and mouth sores. This deficiency is more common in females at the reproductive stage and children under the age of five.

National Nutrition Survey Reports

The National Nutrition Survey is the largest nutrition-related survey being carried out since 1965 in Pakistan. The latest survey was carried out in 2018 targeting the females of the reproductive age
and children under the age of five to unveil their nutrition status. According to the latest report, 41.7% of females of reproductive age are anemic and approximately 53.7% of children under the age of five are severely anemic based on their biochemical parameters.

Figure 1 Prevalence of Iron Deficiency Anemia in children under the age of five in Pakistan

Figure 2 Prevalence of Iron Deficiency Anemia in women of reproductive age in Pakistan

These figures are quite alarming and are directly associated with food insecurity, poor hygiene practices, poor food choices, and unhealthy lifestyles.


Major causes of Iron deficiency are:

  • Inadequate dietary intake of iron
  • High caffeine intake
  • High iron needs of the body
  • Poor absorption
  • Excessive blood loss
  • Worm infestation
  • Low intake of vitamin C


Iron deficiency can be easily detected and confirmed by the following methods:

  • Blood tests to detect the blood components
  •  RBC and WBC counts
  •  Complete Blood Picture (CBP)
  •  Bone marrow exam to check iron storage of the body

Ways to overcome iron deficiency


• Increase absorb-able iron in the diet

• Eat vitamin C containing foods (oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, tomato juice, kiwi fruit, broccoli, red pepper, and green pepper at the top with dietary sources of iron which will help increase iron absorption

  • Avoid excess consumption of tea and coffee. Take caffeinated beverages with a gap of 45 mins with meals
  • Add meat, poultry, and fish to meals
  • In severe anemia, go for iron supplementation
  • Add iron-fortified products to your diet
  • Treat the causes of blood loss at priority

Iron enriched foods

Iron enriched foods include:

  • Artichoke
  • Red meat
  • Fish
  • Legumes
  • Green vegetables
  • Dried fruits


Role of Health organizations

World Iron Deficiency Anemia Day is celebrated around the globe on the 26th of November  every year. The organizations, societies, and educational institutes working on health celebrate this year by arranging different awareness seminars and assessment camps to help the community in overcoming health issues. This year, the Food and Nutrition Society of the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore arranged a seminar by inviting the Provincial Manager of Food Fortification Program (FFP) Dr. Amber Ilahi as a speaker. Two hundred and fifty-six students from different degree programs attended the event and participated in the question-answer sessions actively. Dr. Amber Ilahi shared her knowledge with the attendees regarding the Iron Deficiency Anemia. She highlighted important points regarding the prevalence of Iron Deficiency Anemia in Pakistan, its causes, symptoms, and nutrition management.

Figure 3 Iron Deficiency Anemia awareness seminar conducted by Food and Nutrition Society

Take-aways from the seminar

  • The nutrition provided during the first thousand days of life should be optimal. The first thousand days include nine months of gestational period and the first two years of age after birth. 
  • Adolescent girls are at high risk of this micronutrient deficiency.
  • Vegetarians should be conscious about the iron-binding constituents specifically present in green leafy vegetables that hinder the absorption of the iron. 
  • There should be a gap of at least 45 minutes between meals and intake of caffeinated beverages.
  • The absorbable form of iron is heme iron. Approximately 95% of the heme iron is bioavailable.



Iron-Deficiency Anemia. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services


National Nutrition Survey 2018, Key Findings Report by Nutrition Wing- Ministry of Health Sciences Services, Regulations and Coordination, Government of Pakistan.


Mahan, L. K., Raymond, J. L., & Escott-Stump, S. (2013). Krause’s Food & the Nutrition Care Process- E-Book. Elsevier Health Sciences