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Abstract, European Journal of Public Health, 2010

Background: More than 3.5 billion people are affected by iron-deficiency anaemia (IDA). Previous studies have shown that the use of iron pots in daily cooking ameliorates IDA. We report a study on the use of a novel treatment to address IDA in rural women in Cambodia, where the use of iron pots is not common. Methods: A community-wide randomized controlled trial was conducted in the village of Preak Ruessei, Kandal Province, Cambodia. Rural women (n= 189) were enrolled and randomly assigned by household to one of three groups: (i) control, (ii) iron treatment with no follow-up and (iii) iron treatment with follow-up visits to provide IDA education. Haemoglobin, serum iron and C-reactive protein concentrations were measured at baseline, 3 and 6 months. A reusable fish-shaped iron ingot was distributed to the two treatment groups and participants were directed to use them daily for cooking. We hypothesized that iron from the ingot would leach iron into food providing an effective iron source. Results: Blood iron levels were higher in women in the iron fish plus follow-up at 3 months compared with controls, but this was not maintained. At 6 months, haemoglobin and serum iron had fallen in all groups and the proportion of anaemic women had increased. Conclusions: This study shows that the iron ingot was effective in the short but not longer-term against IDA. Though a novel treatment option, further research is warranted to determine bioavailability of leached iron and whether or not the surface area is large enough for sufficient iron leaching.