• Apala Guha

All about Nutritional Deficiency and Anaemia

Updated: Jul 31

What is Iron deficiency anaemia?

Iron deficiency anaemia is a condition characterised by inadequate iron deposits in the body. Iron deficiency is the commonest nutritional deficiency and it occurs when the body stores are insufficient to support the necessary rate of red blood cell production and haem synthesis in the bone marrow, to maintain a normal circulating red cell mass and haemoglobin concentration.

It can be caused by inadequate dietary daily intake, increased demand due to pregnancy and growth and/or due to increased blood losses (menstrual losses, haemorrhage and trauma).


So what are the main symptoms of iron deficiency?:

  • Fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

  • Vertigo


What are the Laboratory tests to determine haemoglobin levels?

Haemoglobin and serum ferritin are the most common ways to detect anaemia. The WHO criteria for the detection of anaemia, established in 1975, are the most widely accepted. Haemoglobin concentrations below 13g/dl in male and 12g/dl in females in considered indicative of anaemia.


The following are the common ones that are used:

  • Haemoglobin

  • Haematocrit

  • Bone marrow iron

  • Serum ferritin

  • Serum transferrin receptor concentration

  • Transferrin saturation

  • Free erythrocyte protoporphyrin

  • Red blood cell indices

  • Serum iron


Factors that interfere with iron absorption:

  • Presence of anti-nutrients (example phytates and tannin) in cereal-based food products

  • Iron binding phenolic compounds in tea, coffee, red wine,

  • some leafy vegetables, herbs, nuts and legumes

  • Calcium

  • Soy protein


Haem iron absorption:

  • Amount of haem iron present in meat (high haem iron content boost iron absorption)

  • Content of calcium in a meal (high calcium content reduce iron absorption)

  • Food preparation (time, temperature): may cause leaching of haem iron

Non-haem iron absorption:

  • Iron status of the individuals

  • Amount of bioavailable non-haem iron

  • A balance between dietary factors enhancing and inhibiting iron absorption

Factors that increase the bioavailability of iron absorption:

  • There are two types of dietary iron in food — heme iron and non-heme iron. The body absorbs them at different rates.

  • Animal products, such as meat, poultry, and fish contain both heme and non-heme iron. Typically, heme iron accounts for less of a person’s daily intake than non-heme iron, but the body absorbs it more easily.

  • Foods from plant sources only provide non-heme iron. Non-heme sources usually account for more of a person’s daily intake than heme iron, but the body does not absorb it as well as heme iron.

Foods that help iron absorption:

Foods that are rich in heme and non-heme iron include:

  • liver

  • lean red meat

  • chicken

  • seafood, including oysters

  • lentils and beans

  • tofu

  • fortified breakfast cereals

  • dried fruits, such as prunes, figs, and apricots

  • nuts

  • seeds

  • eggs

  • soya

  • molasses

Dark-green leafy vegetables are also an excellent source of iron, including:

  • spinach

  • kale

  • seaweed

  • watercress

  • broccoli

  • asparagus

  • parsley


Dietary Advice for patients with iron-deficiency anaemia:

  • Include food items with high iron content in their daily diet

  • Consume sources of vitamin C in every meal to enhance absorption of iron

  • Consume foods rich in heme iron

  • Avoid large consumption of tea and coffee, especially with meals, as the tannins inhibit the absorption of iron

  • Consume up to 3 cups of milk or yoghurt per day as advised but not with foods rich in iron

Anaemia is a disorder has not gained the status and importance that it should. The most common cause of female disorders in village areas due to lack of awareness. This should be taken more seriously when it comes to adolescents as they stand at high risk. Interventions are in place, that need to be followed. Educating the mass and awareness is the key!


Learn more about your nutritional requirements, contact Elate Wellbeing.