Iron deficiency negatively impacts the lives of 2 billion people around the planet. It is seen in both the developed and developing world and can cause severe health consequences. Some people are born with iron deficiency issues, and others develop the problem because of many reasons, such as:

  • Life changes (such as pregnancy, nursing or heavy flow menstruation)
  • Poor diet or diet changes (by not eating enough food that contains absorbable iron)
  • Increased iron needs (like an endurance athlete)
  • Frequently donating blood
  • The onset of illness, like ones that prevent iron absorption (such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Increased bleeding can also lead to iron deficiency (post surgery or parasitic infections)

Iron is an incredibly important nutrient that helps blood to carry oxygen throughout our bodies. So, when people are iron deficient, they can experience many symptoms including:

  • Feeling weak
  • Constantly tired
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Pale complexion
  • Frequent nausea

Extreme cases of iron deficiency can be fatal, and are usually treated with blood transfusions. If left untreated, iron deficiency can make people more susceptible to illness and infection.

Historically, daily iron supplements are taken to treat low iron, however, they only treat circulating (and not stored) iron, making the body dependent on the daily dose, and have many negative side effects such as nausea and constipation.

The Lucky Iron Fish is a simple and safe way to add iron to your food, providing an appropriate amount of daily absorbable iron, without side effects. We strongly recommend individuals speak to their doctor if they feel they may be iron deficient.

Lucky Iron Fish Water
When Canadian science graduate Christopher Charles visited Cambodia six years ago he discovered that anemia was a huge public health problem.

In the villages of Kandal province, instead of bright, bouncing children, Dr Charles found many were small and weak with slow mental development.

Women were suffering from tiredness and headaches, and were unable to work.

Pregnant women faced serious health complications before and after childbirth, such as hemorrhaging. Ever since, Dr Charles has been obsessed with iron.

Anemia is the most common nutritional problem in the world, mainly affecting women of child-bearing age, teenagers and young children.

In developing countries, such as Cambodia, the condition is particularly widespread with almost 50% of women and children suffering from the condition, which is mainly caused by iron deficiency.

The standard solution – iron supplements or tablets to increase iron intake – isn’t working.

The tablets are neither affordable nor widely available, and because of the side-effects people don’t like taking them.
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Lump of iron

Dr Charles had a novel idea. Inspired by previous research which showed that cooking in cast iron pots increased the iron content of food, he decided to put a lump of iron into the cooking pot, made from melted-down metal.

His invention, shaped like a fish, which is a symbol of luck in Cambodian culture, was designed to release iron at the right concentration to provide the nutrients that so many women and children in the country were lacking.

The recipe is simple, Dr Charles says.

“Boil up water or soup with the iron fish for at least 10 minutes.

“That enhances the iron which leaches from it.

“You can then take it out. Now add a little lemon juice which is important for the absorption of the iron.”

If the iron fish is used every day in the correct way, Dr Charles says it should provide 75% of an adult’s daily recommended intake of iron – and even more of a child’s.

Trials on several hundred villagers in one province in Cambodia showed that nearly half of those who took part were no longer anemic after 12 months.

In a previous trial, published in the European Journal of Public Health, participants started using water from wells after a few months, because of drought, which was contaminated by arsenic.

Arsenic blocks the uptake of iron so it looked like the fish had stopped working.
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‘Better than tablets’

Prof Imelda Bates, head of the international public health department at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, says the iron fish is a welcome development.

“These sort of approaches are so much better than iron tablets, which are really horrible.

“If it’s something that is culturally acceptable and not too costly, then any improvement to anemia levels would be of great benefit.”

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Sources: World Health Organization, NCBI, Iron Fish.

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