Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Anemia in Kingdom not always about iron: study

Anemia in Kingdom not always about iron: study

A pregnant woman makes an appointment at a maternal health clinic in Phnom Penh in 2013. A new study has suggested that pregnant women in Cambodia should continue to take iron supplements.
A pregnant woman makes an appointment at a maternal health clinic in Phnom Penh in 2013. A new study has suggested that pregnant women in Cambodia should continue to take iron supplements. Kara Fox

Anemia in Kingdom not always about iron: study

Nearly half of Cambodian women of reproductive age suffer from at least mild anemia, however iron and other nutrient deficiencies may not be to blame, a study published on Friday suggests.

Low Prevalence of Iron and Vitamin A Deficiency among Cambodian Women of Reproductive Age, published in human nutrition journal Nutrients, surveyed blood samples from more than 2,000 women between the ages of 15 and 39 across the country.

It found that “neither a lack of vitamin A nor iron are important causes of anemia, which was a bit surprising for us, because we thought it would be a major cause, but it is not”, lead author Dr Frank Wieringa, from the Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement (IRD) in Montpellier, France, said in a phone interview yesterday.

While nutritional causes for anemia include a lack of iron, vitamin A, folate and vitamin E, this is not always the case, Wieringa continued.

“You can have haemoglobinpathies, where you have a genetically different form of haemoglobin [the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen] that is fragile; it’s easier to be broken down, so your concentration of haemoglobin is lower.”

“We think that maybe half the people of Cambodia have this haemoglobin,” compared to rates of “8 to 10 per cent in Thailand”, he said.

Although other nutritional causes for high anemia rates have not been ruled out, according to Wieringa, a genetic explanation appears most likely. The most prevalent form of the genetic disorder in the Kingdom is Haemoglobinpathy E, however, “it’s not really bad, it’s not a disease you die of. It’s probably a trait, or selection, that helps for survival,” Wieringa said, drawing a parallel to the relative resistance to malaria gained by the genetic condition of sickle cell anemia, which has high rates in certain African populations.

“It does have implications for health policies. If anemia is not caused by iron deficiencies, then there is no reason to give iron supplements,” Wieringa said, while nonetheless cautioning that women going through pregnancy and young children are groups that should continue to receive iron supplements under government programs as their anemia is linked to iron deficiency.

“The policymakers should not be frustrated that giving iron does not have an impact on anemia,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Sihanoukville building collapse death toll rises to 19

    Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said on Sunday that the government will act against those responsible for the collapse of a seven-storey building in Sihanoukville on Saturday, which resulted in 19 dead and 24 injured as of Sunday evening. Sar Kheng said three Chinese nationals and one

  • Gov’t to probe Chinese exports to US via Sihanoukville

    The government is investigating allegations that Chinese companies are using Chinese-owned special economic zones in Cambodia to export goods to the US and avoid tariffs, said Ministry of Commerce spokesman Seang Thay. The move comes after US embassy spokesman Arend Zwartjes said the US had

  • Banh: The Khmer Rouge worse than sanctions and pressure

    Minister of National Defence Tea Banh said on Thursday that having sanctions and external pressure placed on Cambodia was not worse than life under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. Tea Banh, who is also deputy prime minister, was speaking to military and ruling party officials

  • Funcinpec ‘set to sell their headquarters’, says source

    An anonymous source from Funcinpec said acting president Prince Norodom Chakravuth had held a meeting with other officials to discuss selling several of the party headquarters across the country while the party president Prince Norodom Ranariddh receives medical treatment at the Royal Phnom Penh Hospital