Monday, August 7, 2017

An Epidemic of Anemia

Here’s some follow-up for my earlier post on depressed vegans. British researchers have discovered that a large number of women are not eating enough red meat… and that this is causing medical problems.

Missing out on the right amount of iron is making a large number of health conscious British women sick:

The story appeared on a blog called Healthista:

More than a quarter of women are not getting enough iron, putting us at risk of being tired all the time, hair loss, mood swings and full-blown anaemia, say experts.

From the explosion of vegan Instagrammers to the spread of meat-free restaurants across the capital, eating less meat - or avoiding it altogether - is suddenly cooler-than-cool. 

But a group of experts are warning that misleading advice on red meat and one-size-fits-all dietary guidelines are putting millions of British women at risk of nutritional deficiencies – namely iron, the key nutrient found in red meat, a deficiency of which can result on constant tiredness, hair loss and mood swings. Sound familiar?

A staggering 27 per cent of women aged 19 to 64 fail to achieve minimum recommended intakes of iron. 

Indeed, the latest Diet and Nutrition Survey which assesses the dietary habits of the nation annually has found women are eating an average of just 47 grams of red meat a day, an alarming third less than the Department of Health’s official advice of 70 grams a day.

Failing to consume enough red meat produces iron deficiency anemia:

Iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is the most common nutritional disorder in the world according to the World Health Organisation. 

In Britain, the British Medical Journal suggests three per cent of men and eight per cent of women suffer with IDA while a staggering one in ten British women are iron deficient. 

But, you will be thinking, about spinach and tofu? Apparently they are insufficient:

Women aged 16 to 49 in Britain are only consuming 47 grams a day of red and processed meat, and the government suggests we should be having around 70 grams each day (or 500 grams a week) to get our iron stores to healthy levels.

But why can’t we just eat more iron-rich greens? The type of iron found in meat is called heme iron, says Dr Gill Jenkins, an NHS GP practicing in Bristol. ‘This is more easily absorbed than the type of iron you get from pulses and vegetables,’ she says. ‘The classic ‘spinach is good for you’ is all very well but you would have to eat about a wheelbarrow full of spinach to get your iron requirements each week.’

A wheelbarrow full of spinach versus a hamburger… hmm….


Sam L. said...

Iron pills, Stuart. Worked for me.

Ares Olympus said...

Women are more likely to be vegetarians and women (before menopause) generally have lower blood iron due to their periods. You would think women vegetarians would pay attention, and as Sam L says, iron pills work.

I donate blood 4-6 times per year, and I was deferred donating a couple times because of low iron, so now I'll take iron pills for 30 days after donating and never had a problem since.

Low blood iron certainly can have side effects, while high blood iron isn't necessarily better in the long run. I read men are more likely to have heart attacks when they're younger because of high blood iron, while women don't catch up to men until after menopause.
Iron is stored in muscles and other tissues, and unless it is lost through menstruation or donating blood, toxic iron levels can accumulate in your system over the years. One study found that those with excessive iron levels were more than twice as likely to have a heart attack, and that every one percent increase in ferritin found in iron translated into a four percent increase in heart attack risk.

Excessive iron levels are one reason why postmenopausal women are at greater risk for heart attack than women who are still menstruating. Postmenopausal women lose the protection of regular menstrual iron reduction, and their iron levels have been found to rise steadily after menopause.

Sam L. said...

I've had too little iron for donating blood, on occasion, but now I'm taking a med that's on the list for no-donating.