LAGOS – A nutritionist, Prof. Ngozi Nnam, on Sunday said one out of every two women of reproductive age in Nigeria was anaemic as a result of iron deficiency.
Nnam, who is the National President of Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN), stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
She said that anaemia in women, especially pregnant ones, was a serious global public health problem with adverse pregnancy outcomes.
According to her, pregnant women, other women and adolescent girls of reproductive age and children, are particularly vulnerable.
“Inadequate iron intake is dangerous to both baby and mother as it can result in severe morbidity and mortality during childbirth as well as negative pregnancy outcomes.
“This condition occurs when the concentration of haemoglobin falls below what is normal for a person’s age, gender and environment, resulting in the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood being reduced.
“It is a major source of worry that one out of two Nigerian women of reproductive age is anaemic and they directly or indirectly transmit this deficiency to their babies and children,’’ she said.
“When a pregnant woman lacks iron nutrient, the brain formation and development of the unborn baby as well as other cell formation will be impaired.
“Women need adequate intake of iron because 70 per cent of brain development happens during pregnancy.
“Inability to provide adequate iron nutrient for proper development of the brain leads to insult in the brain and it reduces intelligence quotient (IQ) by 13.5 points, and the effects are irreversible.
“ It also leads to stunted brain, stunted developments that can affect educational performance, physical and intellectual capacity of a child.
“Children are leaders of tomorrow and we need them to be healthy mentally and physically to secure the future of the nation.
“We need healthy children, who will grow into healthy adults to drive the productivity and economic growth of the country, “ Nnam added.
She said that qualified nutritionists should be integrated into the management of anaemic pregnant women and that efforts should be made towards early diagnosis and treatment of all anaemic pregnant women before delivery.
She urged government at all levels to initiate free iron supplementation and enlist services of nutritionists in an integrated programme for the prevention and management of pregnancy related anaemia.
Nnam also urged women to take cereals, grains, green vegetables, meat, liver, egg, fish, legumes, dry beans and iron-rich white bread as they were all rich in iron.
“Preconception care, including iron and folic acid supplementation, is advocated to reduce this problem.
“All of these efforts would help to ensure safe motherhood and achieve the relevant targets of the Millennium Development Goals,” she stressed. (NAN)