Wetenschap - 12 april 2001

Iron deficiency the norm for babies on Java

Iron deficiency the norm for babies on Java

Over half of the babies on Java have anaemia, due to the lack of iron in their mothers' milk. This is the conclusion reached in a study of 155 young mothers and their children, recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Two Wageningen researchers measured the amounts of iron, zinc and vitamin A in the blood of mothers with recently born children in two villages in Indonesia. "The World Health Organisation gives priority to vitamin A and iron," Frank Wieringa says in explanation of why he and his research partner chose these substances. "And Unicef is also thinking of giving iron supplements to children." Which was why this United Nations organisation financed the study. Wieringa and Marjoleine Dijkhuizen decided to also look at zinc because the Indonesian diet contains large amounts of rice. Rice contains phytates - substances that fix iron and zinc, making it difficult for the human body to absorb them. Indonesians also consume little meat or other animal products, which are also important sources of iron, zinc and vitamin A.

More than half the babies had a vitamin A deficiency. This was also often accompanied by low amounts of the growth hormone IGF-1. This hormone is responsible for children growing up into adults, both physically and mentally. In addition a quarter of the babies had a zinc deficiency. Supervised by Professor Clive West of the sub-department of Human Nutrition and Epidemiology, Dijkhuizen and Wieringa will receive their PhDs in June.

Willem Koert

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