Iron deficiency is highly prevalent among children: seminar

KARACHI: Childhood iron deficiency is a common nutritional problem worldwide and causes neurological dysfunction in affected children. Around 30 per cent of the world’s population has iron deficiency, while it is 50 per cent in the population of Africa and Asia. Poor diet is one of the most common reasons of iron deficiency among the children. Iron deficiency is highly prevalent in developing countries. It is the only nutrient deficiency that remains common in industrialized countries as well.

This was informed by Dr Nessar Ahmed of School of Healthcare Science – Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom, while speaking at the public awareness seminar on “Lead and Childhood Iron Deficiency: A Warning for Pakistan!”, held at Video Conferencing Room of LEJ National Science Information Centre, International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), University of Karachi here on Wednesday.

The seminar was jointly organized by Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD), KU and Virtual Education Project Pakistan (VEPP). Director ICCBS Prof Dr Muhammad Iqbal Chaudhary was present on the occasion, while health professionals, students, research scholars, NGO representatives, and general public also attended the program.

Dr Nessar said that animal and some human studies have shown that iron deficiency may be accompanied by increased absorption of certain metal ions, such as lead, as these compete with iron for the same transporters in the small intestine. Even low levels of lead toxicity can have harmful effects on a child’s IQ, he added.

Talking about reasons of iron deficiency, he said that there are few more important reasons, which included poor diet, malabsorption, intestinal parasites, lack of meat, lack of vitamin-c etc. He said that some health issues, including anaemia, behavioural changes, spoon nails, and cognitive and psychomotor are the consequences of iron deficiency

“Our study investigated blood lead concentrations in children with different degrees of iron deficiency in the Merseyside region of the UK and then in Karachi, Pakistan. Iron status was assessed by a full blood count, serum iron, ferritin, transferrin and soluble transferrin receptors. The results were used to divide children into four categories; normal iron status, borderline iron deficiency, iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia. Blood lead concentrations were determined in all groups using atomic absorption spectrometry,” he said.

It was not possible to demonstrate a change in blood lead concentrations in childhood iron deficiency in the UK population but levels were significantly higher in the Karachi population, he mentioned. The lack of association between blood lead and iron deficiency in the UK population reflects the low environmental exposure to lead in the UK. However, environments with significant lead pollution such as Karachi may adversely affect children with iron deficiency.

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