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DateLine Sunday, 19 August 2007

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Grow more iron rich plants and consume it

The high prevalence of iron deficiency in the developing world has substantial health and economic costs, including poor pregnancy outcome, impaired school performance and decreased productivity in general.

The World Health Organization estimates that a fifth of children under five and a fifth of all women in developing countries are anemic due to insufficient iron in their diets.

Iron deficiencies have not only caused problems to people in developing nations but also to those in developed nations like the UK where up to 21 per cent of girls and women are affected. It has been observed that growing iron rich plants may be the best way of combating iron deficiencies in people around the world as iron rich meat is too costly for many people in the developing world.

Commenting on iron deficiency among people in Sri Lanka Consultant Dietician /Nutritionalist ,Nawaloka Hospital ,Noor Z. Iqbal said that our Sri Lankans don't eat "greens".

Parents have not trained their children to eat leafy green vegetables. Educating the public that a sufficient intake of leafy green vegetables in their daily diet is the only way of combating iron deficiencies among all classes of people in society.

A programme to show the people how to plant leafy vegetables in their own home based plots is best. People could be given the ingredients or the little plants or plant seeds initially so that they can expand their cultivation gradually and have a nursery. It is a spoon-feeding exercise, she added.

All dark green leafy vegetables contain iron which can easily be included in the daily diet of every child and adult and can be added into their soups. However, the other substitute for iron deficiency is liver, but it has to be taken with care as the intake of liver can give rise to a increase in a person's cholesterol and sugar levels.

Anaemia is a medical condition that occurs when a person does not have enough red blood cells. These cells contain hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body's muscles and organs. The body requires oxygen for energy and therefore, when you are anaemic, you may feel tired mentally and physically.

The reduced energy levels that result with anaemia lower a person's ability to think, decreases productivity and increases the risk of infection. For pregnant women there is a greater risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth. In children, anaemia can retard growth and mental development.

In Sri Lanka, it is estimated that up to 40 per cent of children? lack energy. When you are anaemic, you may feel tired mentally and physically. Non-pregnant women have low hemoglobin (Hb) levels related to iron deficiency.

Parasitic infections, particularly hookworm, have been identified as a major contributing factor to anemia in women and children. Low dietary availability of iron is also a major contributory factor. Sri Lanka's favourite beverage is also a major culprit: tea being a strong inhibitor of iron absorption.

As iron deficiency reduces physical work capacity, there are significant economic implications for the country that are associated with this condition.

What is anaemia? Blood is composed of three types of cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets) that circulate throughout the body. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin (Hb), a red, iron-rich protein that carries oxygen to different parts of the body. Oxygen provides the energy the body needs for all of its normal activities. When the number of red blood cells decreases, the heart works harder to deliver.

Anaemia can be difficult to identify because early symptoms may be mild. In addition, it is easy to mistake some symptoms of anaemia for symptoms of other diseases or side effects of medication. As symptoms of anaemia worsen, however, they can significantly affect a person's quality of life.

Symptoms of anaemia include: 'Fatigue,' 'weakness,' Shortness of breath and, dizziness or fainting. 'Pale skin, including decreased pinkness of the lips, gums, lining of the eyelids, nail beds and palms coupled with Rapid heart beat (tachycardia), Feeling cold, Sadness or depression, Decreased sexual function, 'difficulty sleeping and' Decreased appetite Possible causes of anaemia include may be attributed to, Excessive blood loss, Diseases like Thalassaemia, Side effects of medication Poor diet and vitamin or iron deficiencies Treatment Anaemia can be a very serious condition and can affect the way you live.

Intake of iron rich vegetables

per 100 gms

100g. ml.

Gotukola                        68.8

Nelli                                33

Thampala (Amaranthus) 25.5

Passion Fruit leaf           25.5

Wattakka leaf               25.5

Mukunuwenna               16.7

Sweet potatoes leaves  16.3

Kohila leaves                16.3

Beetroot                    16.2

Wing beans                10.7

Soya bean                  10.5

Seasame seed              0.9

Green gram                 8.5

If left untreated, anaemia can result in the need for blood transfusions. The treatment for anaemia may vary depending on the underlying cause. Your doctor will help determine the best treatment options, such as diet modification, nutritional supplements, or medication, if needed.

So growing more green leafy vegetables and makeing use of it in the diet is fighting for a cause to combat iron deficiencies among Sri Lankans.

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