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Newer iron supplement shows promise for pregnant women

Average read time: 3 minutes

Do you know that anaemia is the most prevalent nutritional deficiency in the world? When there are not enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to body tissues, anaemia occurs, and this can have devastating effects, particularly to the groups who are most susceptible: pregnant women and young children.

Newer iron supplement

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), anaemia affects 40% of pregnant women, and 42% of children worldwide.01 That’s a staggering total of 614 million women and 280 million children who are not getting the iron they need.

Research suggests that anaemia is disproportionately concentrated in low socioeconomic groups and that it’s a major cause of maternal illness and high perinatal mortality in developing countries.02

It’s the poorest, ethnically disadvantaged and least educated who are at the greatest risk, say the authors of a new paper03 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). What’s more, anaemia is common in developing countries not only because of poor nutritional status and infection but also because of parasites such as malaria and intestinal worms.

Iron supplements to tackle anaemia

Ferric Sodium EDTA is a newer type of iron supplement that has shown promise in providing supplemental iron to pregnant women. Iron from Ferric Sodium EDTA is two to three times more bio-available than from other mineral sources04 – in other words, it is more easily absorbed by the body, and not usually associated with gastric side effects or the metallic taste of other iron compounds. ‘Iron salts, such as sulfate or fumarate, have been extensively used, but due to gastrointestinal adverse effects, many patients frequently decide to stop taking them,’ say the authors of the paper.

For this research, 337 women receiving antenatal care in maternity hospitals in the DRC in 2020 were given iron supplements in the form of Ferric Sodium EDTA. The authors assessed the change in haemoglobin level after three weeks of iron supplementation, and the results showed a ‘speedy rise’.

This rapid increase in haemoglobin is, say the researchers, related to the property of Ferric Sodium EDTA ‘to enhance the iron absorption by inhibiting the dietary iron inhibitors’, and they conclude that Ferric Sodium EDTA should be used as an effective and promising iron supplement in pregnant women with iron deficiency anaemia.05

They also note that pregnant women with excess weight and malaria as a co-morbidity achieved a ‘significantly lower’ mean haemoglobin gain. The majority of women did not experience the metallic taste of the syrup.

Unilever is fortifying products with iron and other nutrients

Despite efforts to eat well and combat malnutrition around the world, around a quarter of the population is still affected by micronutrient deficiency. From anaemia to pregnancy-related issues, health is damaged simply by the lack of a few micronutrients, such as iron and iodine.

WHO and leading economists have identified food fortification as one of the most cost-effective approaches to meeting people’s nutritional needs. Fortification is when small and safe amounts of essential micronutrients are added to foods that are eaten regularly.

At Unilever, we’ve prioritised both fortification and positive nutrition to help people get the nutrients they need. All over the world, we’re introducing new products with a focus on nutrition as well as flavour.

In South Africa, for example, our new Knorrox Stock Powder is a rich source of iron. Try using the stock powder in our easy Pilchard Cottage Pie, or in a heart-warming Meat Bones & Cabbage Sishebo.

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