Chennai

Anaemia: the need to act early

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Doctors stress on improving nutritional intake of children

Tackling anaemia among children and adolescents continues to be a challenge for doctors. Anaemia affects children in more than one way; it makes them feel tired soon, affects their cognition and makes concentration difficult. In girls, it has long-term effects. This is why doctors and nutritionists keep reiterating the need for acting early — making children consume a nutritious diet rich in iron, folic acid and vitamins, and reducing consumption of anything that hinders absorption of iron.

Statistics have always shown that anaemia has been a major health problem in the country. The National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-2016) pointed out that 50% of children between the ages of five and six were anaemic in Tamil Nadu. Children whose mothers are anaemic are more likely to also be anaemic.

Recently, a study conducted by Lister Metropolis has suggested that more than 37.46% children aged 0 to 20 years in Chennai are anaemic.

T.K. Shaanthy Gunasingh, former president of the Obstetric and Gynaecological Society of India, said: “We see a lot of adolescents with anaemia. The goal is to achieve a haemoglobin level of 12 g/dl by the age of 12. But many girls fall behind. Anything less than 12 g/dl for adolescent girls and non-pregnant women is considered anaemia. We need to talk about healthy and nutritious food habits in children,” she said.

Nutrition anaemia among children and adolescents is a cause for worry, observed S. Srinivasan, State NICU coordinator, Institute of Child Health. “We are especially worried about anaemia among adolescent girls. It is important to catch them young. Otherwise, it becomes a cycle. Anaemic women deliver babies of low birth weight. These babies are also anaemic,” he said.

Nutritional gaps

Meenakshi Bajaj, dietician, Tamil Nadu Government Multi Super Specialty Hospital, said, “We need to understand that children and teens require iron, protein, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and vitamin C. In anaemia, the most prevalent type is iron deficiency anaemia that accounts for 50%. Folic acid deficiency anaemia and B12 deficiency are other forms of nutritional anaemia. We need to realise, react and respond early to knock out anaemia before it is too late,” she said. When babies are fed with milk with no timely weaning food, they are at risk of nutritional anaemia, she added.

A.J. Hemamalini, professor and head, Clinical Nutrition, Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research, observed that a majority of children have iron deficiency. “Eat a good amount of protein, and improve iron intake. Children and adolescents require 21-32 mg of iron per day and this should come primarily from food,” she said.

Cereals such as ragi are a good source of iron. Many millets such as ‘thinai’ and ‘panivaragu’ are also a good source and should be taken periodically. “But millets should be sprouted or soaked overnight before being cooked. Among pulses, roasted Bengal gram makes a good snack,” she said.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 11:21:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/anaemia-the-need-to-act-early/article26441687.ece

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