There is a misbelief among Sri Lankan laymen, some doctors and nutritionists mainly due to meat industry propaganda that anaemia especially iron deficient anaemia is common among vegetarians. You may be surprised to know that a healthy vegetarian diet is an excellent way to get all the iron, folic acid and other vitamins.
Iron deficiency anaemia is a common problem among meat eaters and vegetarians. Vegetarian diet is well capable of providing normal iron requirements which are normally obtained from dark green leafy vegetables such as “gotukola”, “niwithi”, soya products and whole grains.
Recent research has shown that consumption of iron rich foods such as red meat may be a health hazard and people with high levels of serum, iron and serum ferritin are prone to heart attacks.
There are a large number of research studies such as British vegetarian study, studies done in Israel, Holland, Sweden, Canada and China comparing haemoglobin (Hb) levels of vegetarians and meat eaters to show that vegetarians are not prone to anaemia and that meat eating is by no means necessary to prevent iron deficiency anaemia. American Dietetic Association has concluded that both with vegetarian and non-vegetarian diet, iron and folate supplements are usually necessary during pregnancy although vegetarians frequently have greater intake of these nutrients.
There are about one million Sri Lankan vegetarians and there is no medical evidence to prove that vegetarians are more prone to anaemia compared to non-vegetarians.
Vegetarians do not have to worry about T.V.advertisements which advise` people to eat fish and meat as vegetarian diet provides all the nutrients necessary for the formation of haemoglobin. Plant-based diet is superior to meat-based diet because they furnish us all the nutrients including iron and all the vitamins in spite of T.V.advertisements advising people to eat meat and fish to prevent anaemia.
Dr.D.P.Atukorale Consultant Cardiologist