Anemia is a condition that is characterized by a decrease in hemoglobin (a protein contained in red blood cells that transports oxygen), a hematocrit (ratio of the volume of red blood cells to the volume of blood) and the total number of red blood cells – erythrocytes. The causes of anemia are most often associated with iron deficiency in the diet. However, anemia can be caused by both insufficient supply of nutrients (iron, B12, B9 – folic acid) as well as blood loss, bone marrow depletion or chronic diseases.
However, regardless of the cause, anemia is manifested by chronic weakness, decreased concentration, headaches and dizziness, pale skin and mucous membranes (mouth, lips, conjunctivitis), tachycardia (increased pulse), dyspnoea and poor tolerance to physical exertion. An important and necessary element of the treatment of anemia is the introduction of an appropriate diet. What types of deficient anemia can we distinguish and what are the principles of their dietotherapy in anemia?
Microcytic anemia (non-pigmented) caused by iron deficiency
Insufficient supply of iron along with diet results in abnormal hemoglobin synthesis and production of erythrocytes smaller than normal. Anemia of IDA is also caused by disorders of iron absorption, traumas, surgery and chronic bleeding and increased iron demand (eg during pregnancy, lactation). Anemia due to iron deficiency most often affects women of childbearing age who lose iron during menstruation and use slimming diets that limit the supply of nutrients and vitamins. Inadequate supply of iron in the diet often also occurs in the elderly, young children and people using a poorly balanced vegetarian diet.
In addition to symptoms typical of anemia, anemia due to iron deficiency is also manifested by dry skin, cracks at the corners of the mouth, nail and hair fragility and coilonyia (so-called spidery nails).
Demand for iron
Demand for iron increases, inter alia, during the growth of the body (children, adolescents, pregnancy), as well as during breastfeeding.
Iron demand – daily intake (RDA) recommended – according to the Dietary Reference Intakes set by the American National Academy of Sciences, Food and Nutrition Board.
* 1 Recommended daily intake (RDA) – a value that satisfies the needs of more than 97.5% of the healthy population in each age group, both sexes. This value is estimated by statistical methods.
* 2 Maximum level of intake (UL) – a value that does not cause harmful effects in healthy people, as stated in studies under medical supervision.
* 3 Recommended Daily Intake (AI) – the probable level of daily intake calculated from observations or experimentally determined approximations or estimates of intake of individual nutrients. The AI value is given when it is not possible to estimate the RDA.
Iron is an element that occurs in food in two forms. Products of animal origin contain heme iron, while products of plant origin are non-heme iron. Iron heme is absorbable in 15-35%, while non-heme iron in 2-20%. The diet for the treatment of anemia should contain an adequate amount of iron and all the necessary nutrients necessary for the formation of erythrocytes.
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