MANAUS – A study from the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), in the state of São Paulo, released in this second semester of the year, showed that out of every three children, one presents a condition called iron-deficiency anemia, in Brazil. Specialists point out that the disease is usually more common in children and it is necessary to have a vitamin-rich diet to avoid the disease.
The survey was led by researcher Carlos Alberto Nogueira de Almeida and published in the scientific journal Public Health Nutrition, from Cambridge University, in the United Kingdom. The initiative sought to estimate the prevalence of anemia in Brazilian children up to 83.9 months old. The specialists analyzed 134 studies conducted between 2007 and 2020 on the health of 46,978 boys and girls under 7 years of age in Brazil.
According to the research, the main outcome was the combined prevalence of anemia (33%) and sensitivity analyses showed that the removal of studies that contributed to high heterogeneity did not influence the national average prevalence. For the experts, more public policies are needed in Brazil to promote supplementation, fortification and access to healthy food in order to reduce the high rate of childhood anemia.
“Childhood anemia is still a serious public health problem in Brazil, exposing 33% of Brazilian children to the repercussions of anemia. The main limitation of the study is the estimation of national prevalence based on local surveys, but a large number of studies were included, with representativeness in all regions of the country, which gives strength to the results”, says an excerpt from the study.
Although the rate of children with anemia has dropped by 20% compared to the data presented in the last survey on the case, experts warn that the current numbers are still considered high. According to the previous study, done in 2008 at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), 53% of Brazilian children had the disease.
Because the research takes into account data before the installation of the Covid-19 pandemic, which impacted on the increase in prices of foods such as meat, for example, which is the main food that contributes to the child not have anemia after the breastfeeding period, it is estimated that the number of children with anemia may be much higher.
According to the infectious disease specialist from Manaus, Nelson Barbosa, anemia is a deficiency of red blood cells (RBCs) and of hemoglobin in the blood. There are different types of the disease, the most common being iron deficiency anemia, which occurs due to deficiency of iron in the body. The others are megaloblastic anemia, which occurs due to Vitamin B12 deficiency; pernicious anemia; hemolytic anemia; and sickle cell anemia.
“The disease is more common in children because if they do not have the necessary nutrients, including a large reserve of iron, they will develop anemia. This is because of the child’s growth period, in an upward and accelerated curve in relation to their weight and height. So they need all these reserves, including iron and calcium”, he said.
To prevent children or adults from developing anemia, it is recommended that the diet be rich in iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid, in addition to fruits rich in vitamin C. For specialists, it is also necessary to take other precautions with the food so that the absorption is efficient.
“It is not enough to eat foods rich in iron, it is necessary to take some care with the food so that the absorption is efficient. For example, offer foods that are sources of vitamin C, such as acerola, cashews, oranges, guava, and lemons, which must be eaten close to or together with the main meals, because they help the absorption of iron”, pointed out the infectious disease physician Nelson Barbosa.
According to him, it is also necessary to avoid offering milk and milk derivatives to children near meals. “Both breast milk and infant formula should be avoided at times close to the main meals, because calcium hinders the absorption of iron, thus contributing to children developing iron deficiency anemia”, he concluded.
Random effects models based on the inverse variance method were used to estimate the pooled prevalence measures. Sensitivity analyses removed studies with a large contribution to the overall heterogeneity”, says an excerpt from the study.
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