World Iron Deficiency Day 2020: Although micronutrients are only required in small amounts, even minor gaps in intake and deficiencies can affect the human body. Termed ‘hidden hunger’, these deficiencies can affect a person’s health, learning ability, and productivity because of the high rates of illness and disability. Going by estimates, around two billion persons globally are deficient in one or more micronutrients. What is the overall effect on men's health? Besides affecting human health, deficiencies in micronutrients such as iron, iodine, and vitamin A are projected to cost about 0.8-2.5% of the GDP 3. Incidentally, about 0.5% of all deaths in the country in 2016 were said to be contributed by nutritional deficiencies. While much has been said to address anaemia amongst women, men are also affected by it; given its massive impact on health, their condition needs to be taken seriously.
Iron Deficiency: Causes and Prevention By Nutritionist Ramya Ramachandran
In contrast, anaemia among men has been studied less extensively. Nevertheless, anaemia among men can also have unwanted consequences, including fatigue, difficulty in concentrating and lethargy. Lactation Consultant and Diabetes Educator, Ramya Ramachandran says that these symptoms not only reduce a person’s quality of life but lower economic productivity too.
- Numerous causes can trigger anaemia. These include nutritional deficiencies of some vital nutrients such as B9 and B12, genetic haemoglobin disorders as well as acute and chronic infections. While anaemia in specific populations may be attributed to these causes in varying degrees, iron deficiency anaemia is considered to be the leading cause universally. In such cases, it is possible to prevent and treat anaemia effectively through iron supplements and food fortification.
- Likewise, other common causes of anaemia, such as those caused by a deficiency of vitamin B12 or folic acid and infections by intestinal nematodes, can be treated with inexpensive treatments, including food fortification. As per estimates, India accounts for around 25% of all anaemia cases worldwide. Alcohol addiction can also cause anaemia by reducing red blood cell production. There can also be blood loss because of ulcers, which in turn can result in anaemia. Disturbed sleep also increases the risk of anaemia.
- In food fortification, essential minerals, including iron, iodine, zinc, and others, are added to wheat, rice, oil, milk, salt and other items, to augment nutritional values. Brands such as Nu-Shakti are offering select products that can fortify rice and wheat flour, with required vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, vitamins B1, B3, B6, B12, folic acid and more.
- These food fortifiers make the requisite items more nutritious without degrading taste. Food fortification can be undertaken when these nutrients may not be initially present in food, are not there in adequate quantities, or have been lost while processing and refining such foods.
Today, food fortification is perceived as an essential element in combatting hidden hunger, including that concerning iron deficiency anaemia. Treating iron deficiency anaemia among men can, therefore, help in improving the nation’s economic productive outcomes. Given this backdrop, anaemia among men should also be considered as a serious issue, while we address the issue in women and children.
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