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Preventing iron deficiency among pregnant women and babies

By Philippine Information Agency (PIA-8)
February 25, 2013

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte Four out of ten pregnant Filipino women are suffering from iron deficiency anemia (IDA), the result of the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), showed.

Based on the criteria set by the World Health Organization (WHO), the prevalence of IDA among pregnant women in the Philippines is of significant public health problem, said Ms. Czarina Teresita S. Martinez of the FNRI-DOST S&T media division.

According to the FNRI-DOST, the best method of combating iron deficiency in pregnancy is to promote high intakes of available iron by women of reproductive age so that she enters pregnancy with adequate iron stores.

The FNRI-DOST said that iron is present in both animal and plant origins. Liver and glanular organs are the richest sources of iron while meat, fish and poultry are the other good animal sources of iron.

Iron-rich plant foods are the legumes family, green leafy vegetables such as gamet (seaweeds), kulitis (Spineless amaranth), dahon ng malunggay (horse raddish leaves), kangkong (swamp cabbage), dahon ng gabi (taro leaves), dahon ng kinchay (Chinese Celery leaves), dahon ng saluyot (jute leaves), talbos ng kamote (sweet potato leaves), and some dried fruits like prunes.

IDA could also be avoided by consuming foods that may help in increase iron absorption and metabolism like vitamin A, Vitamin C, and riboflavin that are abundant in fruits and vegetables.

The Department of Health (DOH) is advocating the consumption of foods with the Sangkap Pinoy Seal; that include iron fortified foods. The FNRI-DOST develops fortified food products including iron fortified foods that will help increase the consumption of iron.

Ms. Martinez quoted Dr. Helen A. Guthrie, Professor of Nutrition at the Pennsylvania State University, who said that a woman who has been well-nourished prior to conception enters pregnancy with a reserve of several nutrients that can meet the needs of the growing fetus without jeopardizing her health.

During pregnancy, the body conserves iron since menstruation ceases and iron absorption increases three folds. The blood protein responsible for iron absorption likewise increases.

However, iron stores may decrease during pregnancy because iron needs also increase. On the last trimester of pregnancy, much of the available iron and maternal iron stores are taken up by the fetus to create its own iron stores for the first three to six months of life.