Culture

The Key to a Global Nutritional Crisis Might Be a Simple Iron Fish

by Rafi Schwartz

May 19, 2015
image via youtube screen capture

Iron Man may be the one thrilling audiences with his cinematic heroics this summer, but when it comes to saving lives out here in the real world, Tony Stark’s got nothing on these iron fish. 

Iron deficiency is a nutritional condition which affects huge swaths of the global population. Lack of iron in one’s diet can make a person tired, unable to focus, and in extreme cases can lead to life-threatening complications for pregnant women and their unborn child. Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA) can be treated with supplemental pills, but those can cause unwanted side-effects, and are costly as well as difficult to obtain in certain parts of the world. Due to those factors, the BBC reports, IDA is estimated to affect up to half the population of women and children in developing countries like Cambodia.

image via youtube screen capture

It was there in 2009 that researcher Christopher Charles came up with a surprisingly simple and astonishingly effective tool to increase dietary iron intake without resorting to pills: A small metal fish—a symbol of luck in Cambodian culture—that can infuse food with the proper amount of necessary iron to ensure better overall nutrition. Drop the fish in a boiling stew or soup, wait ten minutes, remove, and you’re good to go. Then wash the fish thoroughly, and it’s ready for the next meal. 

In 2012, the Lucky Iron Fish Project was founded by University of Guelph doctoral student Gavin Armstrong. The company, which has taken Charles’ concept and adapted it for mass production, claims that a single fish can provide up to 75 percent of the daily iron intake for an entire household, and will do so for a maximum of five years. 

Since widespread introduction of the fish began in Cambodia last year, Lucky Iron Fish Project’s website states that they’ve seen a “50% decrease in the incidence of clinical iron deficiency anemia, and an increase in users’ iron levels.”

Having secured funding through both grants and donations, the company—where inventor Christopher Charles sits on the board of directors—plans to expand their production and distribution operation, and bring the healing powers of Lucky Iron Fish to even more in-need communities around the world. 

[via bored panda]

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The Key to a Global Nutritional Crisis Might Be a Simple Iron Fish