According to the World Health Organization (WHO), iron deficiency is “the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world,” affecting more than two billion people. Now, however, a Canadian scientist has come up with a potential solution for this global health issue.
As BBC News reported on Sunday, Dr. Christopher Charles drew inspiration from past studies that reported that cooking in iron pots increased the iron content of food, so he decided to place a lump of iron shaped like a fish into a cooking pot while visiting Cambodia six years ago.
Iron-deficient anemia hits developing countries such as Cambodia particularly hard, with the British news agency reporting that nearly 50 percent of women and children have the condition. Iron supplements alone weren’t enough, and tablets designed to increase iron intake were too expensive – and even those who had them often did not use them due to the side effects.
Correct use can provide 75 percent of an adult’s iron content
Dr. Charles designed his iron fish to look like a species commonly eaten in Cambodia, and made it so that it released iron at the right concentration to provide nutrients to those who were lacking them. Half of the people who started using the iron fish when cooking no longer suffered from anemia after just one year, according to BBC News.
Dr. Charles explained to the media outlet that using the iron fish is simple. First, you place it into a pot of water or soup and boil it for at least 10 minutes to enhance the iron content. Then simply remove the iron fish and add some lemon juice, which improves the absorption of the nutrient.
If used in the correct way, it could provide as much as 75 percent of an adult’s recommended daily intake of iron, he added, and an even higher percentage for children. Trials that involved several hundred villagers living in one province of Cambodia showed that nearly 50 percent of those individuals no longer suffered from iron-deficient anemia after 12 months.
Approximately 2,500 Cambodian families are currently using the iron fish, and the Lucky Iron Fish Company has distributed nearly 9,000 fish to hospitals and non-governmental organizations in the country, BBC News added. Furthermore, Dr. Charles said that the villagers appear to have accepted using the three-inch long, seven-ounce smiling iron fish.