Iron status and dietary iron intake of adolescents from a rural community in Sabah, Malaysia.Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2004; 13(1):48-55AP
Iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is the most prevalent micronutrient deficiency in the world affecting the general health and wellbeing of millions. In Malaysia, moderately high prevalences of anaemia have been reported amongst infants, young children and women of childbearing age. Data is scant for the adolescents. This study was undertaken to assess the iron status and dietary intake of 165 adolescents, comprising 74 male and 91 female subjects, aged 12 to 19 years, from the rural communities in Tuaran District of Sabah, Malaysia. Convenience sampling was used for the selection of study subjects. Multiple iron status indicators namely, serum ferritin (SF), transferrin saturation (TS), mean corpuscular volume (MCV) and haemoglobin (Hb) were determined for the study. The mean age of the subjects was 15.2 +/-2.1 years. While the majority of the subjects (77.6%) had normal body mass index (BMI) values, 17.6% were underweight and 4.8% overweight. About 35% to 40% of the subjects showed deficient values for haematocrit, serum ferritin, serum iron, mean corpuscular haemoglobin (MCH), mean corpuscular volume (MCV) and transferrin saturation (TS), and 20% were anaemic (Hb <12 g/L). Using the multiple criteria of iron status indicators, the prevalence of iron depletion, iron deficiency and IDA in the male and female adolescents were 5.4% vs. 6.6%, 18.9% vs. 26.4% and 5.4% vs. 26.4%, respectively. Iron deficiency anaemia (85.0%) contributed largely to the prevalence of anaemia. The dietary iron intake of the adolescents was unsatisfactory, with approximately 98% of subjects failing to meet the Malaysian RDA level. Almost all the female subjects (91%) had dietary iron intake below two-thirds of the RDA level compared with a much smaller proportion for the male adolescents (68%). The prevalence of IDA in the present study population, especially in the female adolescents, appears to be a significant public health problem. Priority should therefore be given to the eradication of iron deficiency in adolescents from low-income areas by dietary modification and micronutrient supplementation amongst female adolescents.