Friday, February 26, 1999 Published at 09:05 GMT
Cooking pot 'cure' for anaemia
Cooking pots can raise iron levels in food
Cooking food in iron pots could help reduce anaemia in developing countries, according to UK research.
Anaemia is the most common nutritional problem in the world and mainly affects women of child-bearing age, teenagers and young children.
In some developing countries almost 50% of women and children and 25% of men suffer from the condition, which is mainly caused by iron deficiency.
But researchers conducting laboratory and community experiments in Ethiopia which compared iron and aluminium cooking pots found surprising results.
Children fed meat or vegetables cooked in iron pots had higher levels of haemoglobin, the substance that makes blood red, and grew more quickly.
Anaemia comes in many forms and can be caused by poor diet, the body's inability to absorb iron effectively or infections such a s malaria.
It can cause lethargy, weakness, susceptibility to other infections and slow mental development.
It is usually treated with iron supplements, but the researchers, led by Abdulaziz Adish, say using iron cooking pots may be a more popular way of combatting the condition.
Writing in The Lancet, they say: "Iron pots are not alien to rural communities - their introduction might face less cultural resistance, be logistically easier and cost less than other strategies to control anaemia."
The cost of providing iron supplements to a population of 10,000 for a year is estimated at $20,000. The cost of providing iron pots to the same number of people is only around $5,000.
In a commentary in The Lancet, Bernard Brabin of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, said: "If the reduction in prevalence of anaemia and benefits in growth demonstrated in this Ethiopian study can be reproduced on a larger scale, then real gains in child, adolescent and maternal health should be possible at low cost."