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What should one eat to increase the haemoglobin levels?

Friday, 21 July 2006
Answered by: Dr. Shirish Kumar
Consultant Haematologist,
Sir Ganga Ram Hospital,
New Delhi
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Q. What should one eat to increase the haemoglobin level at the earliest? What foods improve haemoglobin?

A.  Anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or the amount of haemoglobin is below normal for age and sex of the individual. It is defined as a decrease in red blood cell (RBC) mass and is usually discovered and quantified by measurement of the RBC count, haemoglobin (Hb) concentration, and haematocrit (Hct). Anaemia is suggested in males with Hb levels less than 13.0 g/dl and in females with Hb levels less than 12.0 g/dl (less than 11.5 g/dl in pregnant women). It may be due to decreased production of red blood cells, blood loss (haemorrhage) or red cell breakdown (haemolysis). Anaemia is a symptom of disease that requires investigation to determine the underlying cause. It is twice as common in women than in men, especially during the childbearing years due to menstrual blood loss and pregnancies. One of the commonest cause of anaemia in our country is nutritional deficiency - iron deficiency &/or folic acid/vitamin B12 deficiency. Please get yourself examined by a physician and get a complete blood count done (which includes red cell indices) along with a reticulocyte count and a peripheral smear examination. This will give an idea of the underlying cause on which the treatment depends. In case of iron deficiency, diet alone cannot provide adequate iron and you will need to take an iron supplement for 4-6 months. Absorption of iron from food is influenced by multiple factors. One important factor is the form of the iron. Haeme iron, found in animal sources, is highly available for absorption in contrast to non-Haeme iron found in vegetable sources. Vegetarians need more iron in their diets than non-vegetarians because the iron from plant foods is not as well absorbed as it is from animal foods. Vegetarians should choose several iron-rich plant foods daily. Grains, beans and lentils, vegetables (green-leafy ones, tomato, potato, green & red chillies etc), fruits, nuts and seeds are rich sources of non-haeme iron. The absorption of non-haeme iron can be improved when a source of haeme iron meat/fish/poultry is consumed in the same meal or iron absorption enhancing foods like fruits/fruit juices are consumed. But coffee/tea and calcium if consumed along with a meal impair iron absorption.

A.  Anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or the amount of haemoglobin is below normal for age and sex of the individual. It is defined as a decrease in red blood cell (RBC) mass and is usually discovered and quantified by measurement of the RBC count, haemoglobin (Hb) concentration, and haematocrit (Hct). Anaemia is suggested in males with Hb levels less than 13.0 g/dl and in females with Hb levels less than 12.0 g/dl (less than 11.5 g/dl in pregnant women). It may be due to decreased production of red blood cells, blood loss (haemorrhage) or red cell breakdown (haemolysis). Anaemia is a symptom of disease that requires investigation to determine the underlying cause. It is twice as common in women than in men, especially during the childbearing years due to menstrual blood loss and pregnancies. One of the commonest cause of anaemia in our country is nutritional deficiency - iron deficiency &/or folic acid/vitamin B12 deficiency. Please get yourself examined by a physician and get a complete blood count done (which includes red cell indices) along with a reticulocyte count and a peripheral smear examination. This will give an idea of the underlying cause on which the treatment depends. In case of iron deficiency, diet alone cannot provide adequate iron and you will need to take an iron supplement for 4-6 months. Absorption of iron from food is influenced by multiple factors. One important factor is the form of the iron. Haeme iron, found in animal sources, is highly available for absorption in contrast to non-Haeme iron found in vegetable sources. Vegetarians need more iron in their diets than non-vegetarians because the iron from plant foods is not as well absorbed as it is from animal foods. Vegetarians should choose several iron-rich plant foods daily. Grains, beans and lentils, vegetables (green-leafy ones, tomato, potato, green & red chillies etc), fruits, nuts and seeds are rich sources of non-haeme iron. The absorption of non-haeme iron can be improved when a source of haeme iron meat/fish/poultry is consumed in the same meal or iron absorption enhancing foods like fruits/fruit juices are consumed. But coffee/tea and calcium if consumed along with a meal impair iron absorption.

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