MONTREAL, CANADA. It is estimated that more than two billion people worldwide suffer from iron-deficiency anemia. In less-developed countries the disease affects about 50 per cent of all children and women and about 25 per cent of men. Researchers at McGill University now propose a low-tech solution to the problem - cook food in iron pots. They evaluated this approach in a year-long study carried out in Ethiopia. Participants were 407 children (mean age of 2.5 years) from poor families (annual income of $32 US). Families were assigned to cook their food in either an iron pot (195 households) or an aluminum pot (212 households). After three months the mean hemoglobin level among the iron-pot children had increased by 1.5 g/dL. At the end of the study the proportion of anemic children in the iron-pot group had decreased from 57 per cent to 13 per cent as compared to a decrease from 55 per cent to 39 per cent in the aluminum-pot group. Iron- pot children also showed an increase of 11.2 micrograms/L in ferritin concentrations while no change was observed in the aluminum-pot group. Also after only three months, the average height in the iron-pot group had increased by more than 0.7 cm and the weight by more than 0.3 kg than the height and weight gains observed in the aluminum-pot group. The researchers conclude that providing poor families with iron pots for cooking may be a cost-effective way of solving the anemia problem in under-developed countries.
Adish, Abdulaziz A., et al. Effect of consumption of food cooked in iron pots on iron status and growth of young children: a randomised trial. The Lancet, Vol. 353, February 27, 1999, pp. 712-16
Brabin, Bernard. Iron pots for cooking: wishful thinking or traditional common sense? The Lancet, Vol. 353, February 27, 1999, pp. 690-91 (commentary)