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Once in a while, someone comes up with a genius and simple solution to a really big problem, and we've just got to share. You may have heard about the lucky iron fish, the coolest "iron supplement" out there. The lucky iron fish is really helping people in one of the poorest countries in the world, but there's no reason you can't use it too.
What Is Iron-Deficiency Anemia, And Why Does It Matter?
Iron-deficiency anemia is a condition in which a lack of iron leads to an inadequate amount of healthy red blood cells in the body. Red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen to the body, making them rather crucial. While mild iron-deficiency anemia may go unnoticed because it doesn't produce any symptoms, people who have it will start to notice tell-tale signs as the condition worsens. Typical symptoms include fatigue, pale skin, a feeling of general weakness, tingling in the extremities, and shortness of breath. Sufferers may also notice cold hands and feet, brittle nails, headache, chest pain and frequent infections. All of these symptoms point to the fact that your body is functioning sub-optimally when you don't get enough iron.
Though iron-deficiency anemia is more common in developing countries, it's also the only nutritional deficiency that's widespread in developed nations. While iron-deficiency anemia is much more of a stealth health problem than, let's say, epidemic diseases, its consequences can be devastating: think deaths, maternal hemmorhages during childbirth, and a reduced productivity at work and at school.
We don't need fancy vaccines or medicinal cures before we can solve the worldwide problem of iron-deficiency anemia — the causes are already well-known, and the solutions right along with them. Infections exacerbate the problem of iron-deficiency anemia, and that's why the World Health Organization lists "immunization and control programs for malaria, hookworm and schistosomiasis" as one of the key solutions. The other two are an increased intake of iron, and a balanced and nutritious diet in general.
What's The Lucky Iron Fish?
Cambodia, one of the poorest countries in the world, is especially affected by iron-deficiency anemia. The problem is so big that over 60 percent of all Cambodia's women are dangerously low on iron, as well as 44 percent of the general population. Because of this, the country struggles with enormous rates of premature labor, hemorrhage in childbirth, and brain development problems.
University of Guelph student Christopher Charles set out to change that. He knew that cast-iron cookware gives off iron that leads to lower levels of anemia, but he was also aware that iron-rich foods including red meat and legumes are hard to come by in Cambodia, where most of the rural population earns less than $1 a day. Iron supplements did not appear to be a long-term solution in this situation either. Having that in mind, Charles created cast-iron discs, which he asked villagers to put in their pans while making soup or boiling water.
Enter the lucky iron fish.