‘76 per cent of children In Nigeria suffer from iron deficiency’


Managing Director, Nestle Nigeria, Mr. Dharnesh Gordhon, has said that 76 per cent of children in Nigeria under the age of five have growth problems as a consequence of poor feeding.

The Nestle boss, who was represented by Mrs Iquo Ukoh, Marketing Services Director of the company, gave the information at a Nestle Nutrition Seminar in Lagos.

According to Gordhon, iron deficiency is the most common form of micronutrient deficiency in children and a significant cause of anaemia.

Gordhon said that micronutrients, such as iron, vitamin A, iodine and zinc were essential for growth and development.

“Iron deficiency has series of functional consequences such as reduced cognitive development as measured by intelligence quotient, reduced attention span and poor learning and impaired scholastic performance. Decreased exercise stamina, reduced muscular force and strength, as well as impaired body temperature are also common to the condition, whether or not it is associated with anaemia.

“Hence, iron deficiency disorders can take a devastating toll on fitness of both individuals and the communities of which they are part of,’’ he said.

The managing director added that “Iron deficiency is common to infants in the second semester of infancy. During adolescence, iron requirements are increased. In boys, this increase reflects not only the expanding blood volume, but also a rise in haemoglobin concentration that occurs with sexual maturation.

“In girls with marginal dietary iron intakes and increased menstrual blood losses, iron-deficiency anaemia may be a limiting factor for growth in adolescence”.

Gordhon urged governments, healthcare professionals, parents and other stakeholders to understand the issue of iron deficiency in Nigeria and collaborate to solve some public health challenges associated with it.

Prof Edamisan Temiye, a professor of Paediatrics, Faculty of Clinical Services, College of Medicine of the University of Lagos, said that exclusive breast- feeding should be encouraged and maintained to prevent iron deficiency in infants.

According to him, through breast-feeding, about 50 per cent of iron in breast milk is absorbed.
He said that infants and toddlers should get most of their iron requirements through naturally iron-rich foods rather than through iron supplementation.

Temiye named some of the foods as red meat, egg, sea food, poultry, legume, green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals and fruits.

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