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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 23-26

Caregivers' knowledge and perception of iron content in common staple foods consumed in Southeastern Nigeria

1 Department of Paediatrics, Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Enugu, Nigeria
2 Child Survival Unit, Medical Research Council, The Gambia Unit, Gambia, UK
3 Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Nigeria

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Chidiebere D. I. Osuorah
Child Survival Unit, Medical Research Council, The Gambia Unit
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/IJFNS.IJFNS_23_20

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Background: Iron-deficiency anemia remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality of children in our environment. The knowledge of its function and food-rich sources of iron among mothers and/or caregivers will go a long way to mitigate the growth and developmental consequences of iron deficiency in children. Methods: Due to the high prevalence of iron-deficiency anemia in our locality, we set out to determine the knowledge of mothers and/or caregivers of the richest source of iron among all staple foods commonly consumed in our locality and their awareness of cooking methods that degrade the dietary iron. This cross-sectional hospital study conducted over an 8-month period recruited and interviewed 407 mothers/caregivers attending the Children's Outpatient Clinic of the Enugu State University Teaching Hospital using illustrated self-administered questionnaires. Results: A vast majority (90.9%) were aware of dietary iron, but when further questioned about its source and function, almost all respondents (99.2%) considered unripe plantain as the richest food source of iron. None chose cowpea which contains the highest iron content. Likewise, none identified cooking practices that reduce dietary iron availability. Eighteen (4.4%) correctly recognized individuals at the highest risk for iron deficiency, whereas only 5 (2.4%) and 1 (0.3%), respectively, correctly selected all the correct functions of iron and ways it can be lost in the body. Conclusion: Respondents in our study have absolutely no knowledge of cowpea, the richest and cheapest sources of iron in our environment. There is consequently a need to create a comprehensive nutritional campaign, especially during antenatal and well-child clinic visits, to educate parents/caregivers on local and readily available iron-rich food sources and cooking practices while discouraging cooking practices that could potentially degrade elemental iron in these food sources.

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