Nutritional Anemia – a common nutritional deficiency

Nutritional anemia is one of the most common and widespread nutritional deficiency in the world. Recent WHO data indicates that it affect over 30 percent of the world’s population.It occurs due to lack of certain vitamins and minerals. People with anemia typically feel tired and weak. However, in most cases it can be easily diagnosed and treated.


What is anemia?

Anemia occurs when your body does not have enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells that carry oxygen to the tissues). Thus, it results in low hemoglobin level in your blood than normal. It can be mild, moderate or severe. It can also be temporary or long-lasting. But, it can be successfully reversed.



There are more than 400 different types of anemia. Most common types of anemia are –

Iron deficiency anemia – It occurs when you have low hemoglobin level in your red blood cells. It can result due to poor diet or inadequate absorption of iron from diet.

Microcytic anemia – It occurs due to deficiency or impaired absorption of iron. In this size of red blood cells get reduced.

Megaloblastic or macrocytic anemia – It occurs due to deficiency of Vitamin B12 and folic acid. The maturation of red blood cells is impaired in bone marrow. Size of red blood cells is usually larger than normal.

Pernicious anemia – It occurs when your body lacks Vitamin B12 or due to its improper absorption.

Sickle cell anemia – It is an inherited blood disorder. In this red blood cells become sickle shaped. They are stiff and sticky and tend to block blood flow in vessels. Life span of sickle cells is shorter than life span of red blood cells (120 days).

Aplastic anemia – It is a blood disorder in which the body’s bone marrow (a soft tissue in the center of bones) does not make enough healthy red blood cells. Because of this, it is sometimes referred to as bone marrow failure.


Symptoms of nutritional anemia

At first, anemia can be so mild that you do not notice it. Symptoms usually appears as anemia gets worse. It includes –

  • Lack of energy
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Low body temperature
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Weight loss
  • Brittle and spoon-shaped nails
  • Hair loss



Blood loss – In women, this is most often happen due heavy menstrual bleeding. It can also occur due to surgery, traumatic injury or internal bleeding (bleeding ulcers).

Low red blood cells production – Iron, folic acid and Vitamin B12 are required to produce red blood cells. If you do not take enough of these nutrients in your diet, it can lead to anemia. Infections, kidney diseases, cancer and even pregnancy can also suppress their production.

High red blood cells destruction – Some inherited blood disorders can increase red blood cells destruction. The conditions include sickle-cell anemia and thalassemia.


Who is likely to develop anemia?

Risk factors for anemia include –
  • People who take diet low in iron, folic acid, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin C (helps in iron absorption)
  • Blood loss
  • Long-term infections
  • Conditions like cancer, kidney disease, HIV/AIDS
  • Family history of inherited anemia
  • Frequent pregnancies and multiple births
  • In infants – Due to low iron stores at birth (preterm baby), late weaning



  • You should consume balanced diet rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. Once anemia is developed there may be need of proper supplementation especially in case of pregnancy.
  • Iron rich foods are whole grains, pulses and lentils, rice flakes, green-leafy vegetables, beans, dried fruits especially raisins, eggs, red meat, fish, poultry.
  • Iron present in non-vegetarian foods is more easily absorbed by body.
  • These foods are also rich in folic acid and Vitamin B12. Milk also contains good amount of Vitamin B12.
  • If you consume all these foods in combination with foods rich in Vitamin C, then more absorption of iron takes place.


Click here to get the complete information about Vitamin C and Vitamin C rich foods


  • If you use utensils of iron for cooking, then it adds iron to your food.
  • Try to consume foods fortified with iron.


Point to remember – Do not consume caffeinated beverages like tea, coffee etc. 3-4 hours before and after taking a meal. These beverages inhibit the absorption of iron.

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