Iron Campaign Survey Points To Worrying Trends
Following the conclusion of World Iron Awareness Week (26 August – 1 September), a quiz, conducted by Beef + Lamb New Zealand which received over 3,500 responses, pointed to worrying trends that many Kiwis are suffering from the symptoms often attributed to iron deficiency. One of the most alarming statistics was over one in five of all respondents stated they felt ‘weak or dizzy all of the time’.
Dr Claire Badenhorst, a lecturer at Massey University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition, specialises in the field of exercise physiology, investigating the impact of iron deficiency. She says it was clear these results, albeit anecdotal, support the wider scientific evidence that iron deficiency is far more prevalent than people realise.
“The results from the quiz are showing similar trends to what I am seeing in my research. A recent study of mine and colleagues displayed some interesting results. Out of 170 women involved in the study, up to half of the women presented with low iron levels. I suffer from low iron levels myself and know how difficult it can be. Feeling weak and dizzy, almost as if your body is suffocating is a very real consequence, but thankfully there are ways you can manage it.”
The symptoms of iron deficiency, things like a lack of energy, regular headaches, shortness of breath or always suffering from colds and flus can often be put down to a busy life. The prevalence of iron deficiency has risen in New Zealand in recent times, with the Ministry of Health shelling out over $20 million in the past three years to treat it.
Pale skin and gums are also a clear indicator iron levels may be low, and close to one in three respondents stated they had pale gums and skin.
Fiona Windle, Head of Nutrition at Beef + Lamb New Zealand, was clear in her advice to Kiwis: “Individually, the cause of these symptoms could be wide ranging. However, the fact we saw close to 15% of respondents select all eight of the quiz responses most closely aligned with iron deficiency symptoms shows a strong indication that they may be suffering from low iron.
Mrs. Windle continued: “The reality is if you’re experiencing a number of these symptoms, then low iron could be causing them. There are plenty of things you can be doing to boost your iron levels, but if you’re really concerned the recommendation is to see your GP.”
The quiz, which was hosted on recipes.co.nz, was designed to give respondents a guide to whether they may be suffering from low iron along with tips and advice on how to boost and maintain their iron levels.
Teen girls and young women are some of the most vulnerable groups when it comes to iron deficiency and this is undoubtedly having an impact on their performance at school. Over 40% of the 3,500 respondents stated they had issues with their concentration, whilst 14% admitted they were having to take days off ‘all the time’.
Ashia Ismail-Singer, who was featured on Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s podcast Let’s Talk Food NZ on the topic of low iron in young women, is a school nurse at a high school on Auckland’s North Shore and admitted she was noticing the impact of low iron levels on the girls in her care.
“Eating a healthy and nutritious diet can often be a secondary concern for any teenager. Socialising, sport or whatever else can come before health and nutrition and I am seeing the impacts this can have on young people, particularly young girls who have a much higher requirement for iron due to menstruation. Energy levels drop off, their concentration in class takes a hit – there are serious consequences. My advice as a parent is to communicate with young girls and help them understand what they fuel their bodies with can have both positive and negative implications.”
For more information about World Iron Awareness Week or tips to help boost and maintain iron levels, please head to ironweek.co.nz.