By DAVID WILLIAMSON
UNC-CH News Services
CHAPEL HILL -- Russian women and children, especially those from poorer families, fail to consume enough iron in their diets, and the deficiency could seriously damage their health, according to a new study. More than half the iron they do ingest is lost through interactions with other foods.
Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted the research, sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development, with several Russian academic and government institutions. It involved analyzing information from the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Study, a continuing large Moscow-based survey about health and nutrition.
"Introduction of free-market policies and loss of traditionally important suppliers has led to a sharp rise in the cost of many basic foods in Russia," said Dr. Martin Kohlmeier, research professor of nutrition at the UNC-CH schools of public health and medicine. "This has raised concerns that some Russians cannot afford the foods they need to maintain optimal health.
"An adequate supply of iron is especially important for the unborn child throughout pregnancy and for young children because their mental and physical development can be slowed by even moderate deficiencies," Kohlmeier said. "Brain and other sensitive tissue may suffer irreversible deficits."
A report on the findings in the April issue of the American Journal of Public Health appears Thursday (April 9). Kohlmeier and his wife Lenore, also professor of nutrition and epidemiology, led the iron research. Co-authors are Dr. Michelle Mendez and Hrishikesh Chakraborty of UNC-CH's public health school, Dr. Svetlana Shalnova of the Russian Center for Preventive Medicine and Dr. Arseny Martinchik of the Russian Institute of Nutrition and Academy of Medical Sciences.