Determinants of iron status in Malaysian adolescents from a rural community

Leng Huat Foo, Geok Lin Khor, E-Siong Tee, Prabakaran Dhanaraj
International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition 2004, 55 (6): 517-25
Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common micronutrient deficiency worldwide. The prevalence of anaemia in the developing countries is three to four times higher than that in the developed countries. The iron status was assessed in 199 apparently healthy male and female adolescents aged 12-19 years living in a fishing community in Sabah, Malaysia. Data on socio-economic characteristics, lifestyles, anthropometry measurements, iron status, and dietary intake were gathered. Dietary intake of energy, iron, and most nutrients (with the exception of protein and vitamin C) were below the recommended levels for Malaysian adolescents. Three-quarters of the iron was derived from plant foods. The mean haemoglobin value for the male was 13.9 +/- 1.3 g/dl with 9.5% having less than 12 g/dl, while the respective figures for the female were 12.4 +/- 1.6 g/dl and 28.6%. The mean serum ferritin concentrations for male and female adolescents were 21.5 and 15.4 microg/l, respectively; with 25.7% of the males and 49.5% of the females having deficient levels of ferritin. Dietary intake of total energy and iron, and gender were found to be independent determinants of serum ferritin and haemoglobin levels, accounting for over 40% of the variations for each of these iron indicators. In males, but not in females, the intake of dietary protein and iron, and physical activity were also found to be significant determinants of serum ferritin. The age of subjects and household size were significant determinants of haemoglobin levels for male subjects, but not for female subjects. The findings indicate the importance of adequate intake of energy and dietary iron for improving the iron status of adolescents.

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