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Study Links Iron Deficiency Anaemia To Tea

Massey University - Study links iron deficiency anaemia to tea drinking.

ALBANY - A Massey University study into iron deficiency has revealed a direct relationship between ethnicity, tea drinking, low income and iron status in Auckland children.

Dr Clare Wall, of the University’s Albany based Institute of Food Nutrition and Human Health, led the research project in conjunction with Starship Children’s Health, and Auckland Health Care Limited.

The study reveals that Pacific Island children are more likely to suffer from Iron Deficiency Anaemia than European children in Auckland. Dr Wall says tea drinking, coupled with low income earning in Pacific Island families is contributing to the children’s low iron status.

Dr Wall says although iron deficiency has been recognised as a major public health problem in New Zealand since the 1960s, the factors which cause iron deficiency in New Zealand children are not known. Low household income, low weight for age, early introduction of cows’ milk and lack of haem iron in the diet have been shown to be important in studies performed in other industrialised countries. However there is no literature on the significance of these factors in the cause of iron deficiency in New Zealand infants and children.

Dr Wall says the aim of the study was to determine the prevalence of Iron Deficiency Anaemia (IDA) in children hospitalised with acute illness and the frequency of adverse dietary habits in children with IDA. The results were compared with a control group (ID) who were not anaemic and who had a measure of iron status at the lower limit of normal.



The study involved 343 children (152 with marginal iron status and 191 with Iron Deficiency Anaemia) aged between 9-23 months who were hospitalised with an acute medical illness. Sociodemographic variables, ethnicity and dietary habits of children were determined by interviewing parents.

Dr Wall says there was no significant differences between the groups in terms of age, gender, mothers’ age, rates of breastfeeding and birth order. However there was a greater proportion of Pacific children with IDA than ID (54% vs 28%). Of the children in the IDA group, 74 % came from households with an annual income lower than $30 000 compared with 54% in the ID group. Dr Wall says tea drinking was related to iron status ( 21% IDA children vs. 8% of the ID children).

The association between tea drinking and IDA persisted when the analysis was adjusted for differences between the groups in the proportion who were Pacific, she says.

The study discounted other recognised risk factors such as late introduction of meat and early introduction of cow’s milk as contributors to iron status in New Zealand children.

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