What Did A Canadian Researcher Create To Combat Anemia In Cambodia?
Answer: Iron Cooking Charms
Canadian researcher Dr. Christopher Charles first came across the rampant anemia in Cambodia while visiting there as a graduate student. Over 50 percent of the women and children in the country suffer from severe anemia, to the degree that children’s growth is stunted.
The widely used solution at the time, iron pill supplements, were impractical for a wide variety of reasons: they’re expensive, difficult to distribute and replenish, and iron pills have unpleasant side effects like nausea, cramping, and other stomach pain.
Inspired by research that showed people who cooked in cast iron pots had elevated iron intake (as the pot would give up tiny bits of iron with each use), Dr. Charles came up with a very novel idea: what if he gave the anemic Cambodian families a lump of iron to cook with? To make the idea attractive, he modeled the lump after a fish (which is both a symbol of luck in Cambodian culture and a common source of food). Then he trained families how to use it: wash the fish, toss it in your cooking pot for at least 10 minutes, add a little lemon juice to your meal (which enhanced iron absorption), and grow healthy. Daily use of the fish provides approximately 75 percent of an adult’s iron needs and even more for children, and in the trials, the villages that used the fish saw the rate of people with anemia halved after 12 months.
If all this talk about anemia and the importance of iron uptake has you thinking about getting a little more iron in your life, you can check out Dr. Charles project at The Lucky Iron Fish; you can buy a fish for your own pot and they’ll send one to Cambodia on your behalf.