Excessive milk intake leading cause of anaemia in kids: WHO

Among different types of anaemia, the most common one is a dietary deficiency of iron, putting young adolescents, menstruating girls and women, and pregnant, postpartum women at high risk.
Image used for representational purpose.
Image used for representational purpose.

BENGALURU:  Poor nutrition in India is one of the major reasons for a large population to be anaemic, a condition where the number of red blood cells or haemoglobin concentration is below normal. Low haemoglobin results in a low oxygen-carrying capacity of blood to body tissues, causing symptoms like fatigue, weakness, dizziness and shortness of breath among others, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Among different types of anaemia, the most common one is a dietary deficiency of iron, putting young adolescents, menstruating girls and women, and pregnant, postpartum women at high risk. Iron deficiency largely occurs in vegetarians, especially children consuming more milk, according to experts. Dr Selvan R, a paediatrician and researcher from Tamil Nadu, said that meat is the best source of iron and only a few vegetarian food sources have good iron content.

“Studies have shown that overconsumption of milk is the leading cause of anaemia in children over the age of one. There is a need for vegetarians to take sincere efforts to add iron to their diet. Green leafy vegetables, millet, unpolished rice and wheat are good sources of iron,” he added.

Other than iron, vitamin A, B12 and folate deficiencies, anaemia can also be inherited, causing sickle cell anaemia, thalassemia, Fanconi anaemia or diamond-black fan anaemia. Despite initiatives taken by the government over the years like the ‘Anaemia mukt Bharat’ or ‘Sickle cell anaemia elimination’ programmes, it has not shown significant positive outcomes, Selvan said. 

Even the recent debate on anaemia cut-offs and dropping it from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) - 6 and shifting it to a different survey with a much smaller sample size raised concerns over the quality of data as people from all socio-economic backgrounds will not be covered under the new survey. The Diet and Biomarkers Survey of India will only cover 1.8 lakh people, a much smaller sample size compared to NFHS (seven lakh people).

According to the 2022 National Library of Medicine report, one in four persons (27 per cent) is affected by anaemia, of which developing countries alone account for more than 89 per cent of the burden. 

Anaemia symptoms

Tiredness | Weakness |Shortness of breath |Pale or yellowish skin |Irregular heartbeat | Dizziness or lightheadedness | Chest pain | Cold hands and feet | Headaches

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