What is anaemia?
Anaemia refers to the concentration of haemoglobin is lower than normal which lead to reduce capacity of blood to transfer oxygen to body’s tissue. Nutritional anaemia is one of the types of anaemia. It caused by insufficient consumption of certain nutrients for the synthesis of haemoglobin and red blood cell. Iron deficiency is the most common dietary cause of anaemia. However, it is not sufficient in this capacity. Deficiencies in folate, vitamins B12, and A are other important contributors to anaemia. The anaemia resulting from vitamin B12 folic acid deficiency is known as megaloblastic anaemia.
Look Out for the Signs!
Anaemia might be so mild that it creates no symptoms at first. However, symptoms normally develop and worsen as the anaemia worsens. Anaemia might cause the following signs and symptoms:
Signs and Symptoms of Anaemia
- Pale skin
- Rapid heartbeat
- Spoon-shaped fingernails
Prevalence of Anaemia in Malaysia
According to the NHMS 2019, the overall prevalence of anaemia in Malaysia was 21.3%. Notably, there was a higher prevalence among females with females of reproductive age (15 to 49 years old) experiencing a prevalence of 29.9%. In other words, 3 out of 10 women of reproductive age have anaemia.
Effect of Dieting toward Anaemia
Nowadays, many people practise extreme and restricted diet strategy in order to lose weight in a shorter time. However, these diet strategies can result in nutrient deficiency which potentially leading to anaemia. Insufficient availability of hematopoietic nutrients due to restrictive diet, including iron, B vitamins, and vitamin C can affect the synthesis of haemoglobin and red blood cells. Individuals following a plant-based diet may encounter challenges due to a restricted range of iron-rich foods which primarily found in animal-based sources.
Besides, several studies have found a link between unhealthy weight loss diet and the development of physiological and psychological illness in the population of developed countries. Unhealthy weight loss diet strategies include extreme calorie restriction and nutritional imbalance, skipping meals, consumption of non-prescription diet pills or supplements and so on. The severe negative energy balance caused by low-calorie diet can lead to a number of health issues such as ketosis, loss of lean body mass and reduced bone density.
In conclusion, extreme dieting is non-advisable as it can potentially lead to a cascade of adverse health outcomes, including the development of anaemia. Extreme calorie restriction and sudden dietary changes can result in the consequences that go beyond simply losing weight.
The Bottom Line
A well-balanced diet is the key to supplying the essential nutrients needed for optimal bodily function. When aiming for weight loss, it's important to ensure an appropriate calorie deficit and be physical active. Consulting a healthcare provider or a registered nutritionist offers the advantage of expert insight into tailoring a safe and effective weight loss strategy that aligns with individual needs and goals.
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This article is written by Lim Yi Han (Nutritionist) for Green Image Organic Enterprise Sdn. Bhd.
- Chang, S., Wang, L., Wang, Y., Brouwer, I. D., Kok, F. J., Lozoff, B., & Chen, C. (2011). Iron-deficiency anemia in infancy and social emotional development in preschool-aged Chinese children. Pediatrics, 127(4), e927–e933. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2010-1659
- Institute for Public Health 2020. National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019: Non-communicable diseases, healthcare demand, and health literacy—Key Findings
- World Health Organisation (WHO). (2017). Nutritional anaemias: Tools for effective prevention and control. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241513067