Contributions of drinking water to health and nutrition in populations

Strategy of fortification of drinking water to control iron deficiency anemia: historical aspects

Jose Eduardo Dutra-De-Oliveira1, Julio Sergio Marchini1, Joel Lamounier2, Carlos Alberto Nogueira de Almeida3.

1 University of Sao Paulo, Ribeirao Prieto, Brazil. 2 Campus Dom Bosco, Sao Joao Del Rei, Brazil. 3 University of Ribeirao Preto, Ribeirao Prieto, San Pablo, Brazil.

Iron deficient anemia has been kept as the main public health problem of the poor and developing countries of the world. Its cause is a low intake of bioavailable iron needed to carry iron organic functions. The greatest iron deficient groups are preschool children and women at reproductive age, but it affects all age’s members of the families. Iron supplements and iron food fortification of foods have been extensively used to control iron deficiency and iron anemia of specific age groups of anemics. It has also been shown that in spite of the large number of studies on the control of iron anemia in the past 50 years, it is still present and even increasing in the poor and developing countries all over the world. The current iron supplementation and iron food fortification, including the micronutrient mixture developed in Canada, have been shown to control anemia of groups of children, youngsters, women, men but not of all age’s families members. A few months of iron supplementation will control children iron anemia but not the anemia of all age’s persons that consume a low iron diet. To control iron anemia of all family members it is necessary to find an iron carrier continuously available at all urban and country side areas. The control, treatment and prevention of iron deficiency and iron anemia will only be reached when iron be daily and continuously available and consumed by all age persons, children, youths, mothers, fathers and old people. It is also of importance that the iron salt used for the fortification should be highly bioavailable, low-priced and highly soluble in the carrier. It is also necessary that the iron salts fortification of drinking water is easily home prepared and daily consumed by all age family members. Home iron fortification of drinking water is a fundamental part of the new approach to control anemia of all age members of the families and consequently, of all community persons at poor and less-developing countries. The iron fortification of drinking water to control iron deficient anemia, the major less-developed and developing public health problem affects an estimated 2 billion people worldwide. We showed that iron fortification of drinking water controlled iron anemia of small children at day-care institutions through the intake of a solution of ferrous sulfate made available to them at communities’ day-care centers. The present alternative is to make home consumption of iron fortified drinking water available to all age’s members of families at urban and rural areas. This could be implemented through drinking water iron fortification program supplementation reaching children, adults and old people. At a much lower cost than the present iron supplementation used to control iron deficient anemia at small and large individualized groups of children, women, adults, etc. Anemia affects all age’s persons worldwide but mainly at poor and areas of developing countries, particularly at less-developed regions of Africa, South/Central America and Asia. It would be difficult to find a health-care intervention that would give so much benefit for such a small investment. Key words: iron anemia, all ages, anemia control, iron fortification, drinking water.