Sunday 31 October 2021

Anemia in Adolescence


 Anemia is one of the common health problems across the globe, affecting all age groups particularly the pregnant women and young children of which about 50% is  attributed to iron deficiency. In adolescence, anemia have been neglected. It affects the mental and physical development, as well as health maintenance and work performance. It mostly prevalent among adolescent girls because of the additional loss of blood during menstruation and other gender contributing factors. Anemic adolescent girls are more likely to become anemic mothers. During pregnancy, they have an elevated risk of postpartum hemorrhage and giving birth to low-birthweight, premature or stillborn babies who are likely to grow stunted, perpetuating the vicious cycle of malnutrition.

Causes of anemia

Anemia is an indicator of  both poor nutrition and poor health. Iron deficiency in its most severe form results in anemia – IDA.  Iron deficiency anemia is a condition in which anemia occurs due to lack of available iron to support normal red cell production. This may be due to inadequate iron intake, poor iron absorption, increased iron need or chronic blood loss.  Other nutritional deficiencies besides iron, such as vitamin B12, folate and vitamin A can also cause anemia although the magnitude of their contribution is unclear. Infections (such as malaria and intestinal parasitic infection [IPI]), and chronic illness can also result to anemia.

The signs and symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia in adolescents may include:

  • Pale skin
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Slow cognitive and social development
  • Inflammation of the tongue
  • Difficulty maintaining body temperature
  • Increased likelihood of infections
  • Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or pure starch


  • Anemia in adolescence can be prevented through adequate nutrition. Including animal-based protein products provides the body with the heme type of iron. Heme iron is better absorbed by the body.
  • Other source of iron are the non-heme iron gotten from plant based foods e.g. green-leafy vegetables. fortified grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and vegetables.

How to improve iron absorption from food

How food is prepare and which foods eaten together, can affect how much iron the body absorbs. For example, including foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, to non-heme iron sources such as legumes, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables can help absorb more iron if one eats them at the same time as iron-rich foods.

Coffee, tea and red wine (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), on the other hand, can reduce iron absorption. Calcium-rich foods, calcium supplements and some soybean-based foods can also inhibit iron absorption.

It’s better to have coffee, tea, red wine and dairy foods in between meals.


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