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Beef + Lamb NZ Joins The Call For New National Nutrition Surveys

As World Iron Awareness Week kicks off today, Beef + Lamb New Zealand are joining the growing number of calls for the government to conduct new national nutrition surveys, with the most recent in 2008 for adults, and 2002 for children.

Iron deficiency is the world’s most prevalent nutrient deficiency with two billion sufferers globally. It greatly impacts young children and women, with symptoms often being mistaken for the impacts of a busy life (tiredness, feeling grumpy, lack of focus). This hidden hunger is impacting a growing number of Kiwis, but the true scale is virtually impossible to quantify.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Head of Nutrition Fiona Windle points out that such a large data gap leaves a lot to be desired when trying to tackle the impacts of low iron levels among other nutrient deficiencies.

“We know the annual cost of hospitalisations due to iron deficiency anaemia has doubled over the past 10 years. Yet, our most comprehensive overview of what New Zealanders are eating is virtually 12 years old. With diets and eating trends naturally evolving over time, it’s vitally important we get up-to-date data to help understand what people are eating and the magnitude of nutrient deficiencies.”

Now in its seventh year, 2020’s World Iron Awareness Week will focus on babies and toddlers in particular. However, getting hold of recent nationally representative nutrition data for Kiwi children is even harder with the last National Children’s Nutrition Survey for children aged 5-14 years carried out 18 years ago, leaving a data gap for children under 5 years.

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Windle added, “Reducing the risk of iron deficiency, particularly infants, could reap huge benefits not only in their physical health, but in their brain development and cognitive abilities as well. In this rapid phase of growth where a baby’s birthweight triples in its first year, at 7-12 months, a baby needs even more iron than their dad.”

“One New Zealand study showed eight out of 10 toddlers don’t meet their recommended daily iron intake, whilst another Auckland-based study suggested as many as one in seven children under the age of two are iron deficient. However, these studies are both over 10 years old, and with the number of patients presenting symptoms of iron deficiency growing, the true impact of this hidden hunger could be even bigger.”

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