Doctor advises what to eat to help an iron deficiency
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Most cases of iron deficiency result from inadequate iron intake, but internal bleeding, endometriosis and genetics can also play a role. As a general rule of thumb, fruits and nuts that provide non-haeme (iron compounds formed in the non-protein part of haemoglobin) should be emphasised in diet. Certain plant-based foods have been linked to the development of severe iron deficiency, however. One woman managed to curb her deficiency by cutting out raisins.
In 2013, the American Journal of Medicine reported on the case of a 44-year-old female whose health deteriorated despite multiple attempts to correct her iron deficiency with supplementation.
The authors said the patient was referred to their outpatient clinic due to symptoms of iron deficiency.
A year prior to her visit, she was treated with oral iron (100ml/d) because of severe iron-deficiency anaemia with haemoglobin levels of 7.0 g/dL.
However, symptoms failed to resolve and led to a subsequent visit with more pronounced signs of anaemia.
Three weeks after discontinuing raisin intake, the patient’s condition had totally resolved without the need for iron supplementation.
Her report highlighted that grape products like raisins contain high concentrations of specific natural phenolic compounds.
One such compound, tannin, is known to bind to certain minerals like iron and interfere with their absorption.
Other tannin-containing foods include:
- Legume seeds
Early research published in the Beta Beta Beta Biological Society in 2004, suggested that when dietary tannin is increased, excess iron should theoretically not be absorbed.
Instead, iron binds with tannins and is excreted by the body.
“To our knowledge, this is the first clinical case indicating that blue raisins decrease the absorption of iron from foods,” concluded the authors of the case report.
“Although our observation comprises a rare cause of iron-deficiency anaemia, natural bioactive polyphenols may offer an adjunct dietetic treatment in patients with hereditary hemochromatosis, who experience iron overload because of an accelerated rate of intestinal iron absorption.”
How prevalent is iron deficiency?
Data from international surveys put the global prevalence of iron deficiency at around 500 million people.
The condition is most prevalent in developing countries where its detection is obscured by other inflammatory disorders.
Left untreated, iron deficiency can lead to complications involving the heart and lungs, as the body struggles to pump blood at the right pressure.
This could eventually lead to the development of anaemia, where the blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells to supply the organs with much-needed oxygen.
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