Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | 13:56 WIB

Iron needs vitamin C to be optimally absorbed

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Jakarta, IO – January 25, 2024, is celebrated as the 64th National Nutrition Day, but in fact, the Founding Fathers cared about the nutrition of all Indonesians since the early days of the nation. Nutrition is so important that an institution was established to deal with nutritional problems in the fledgling republic.

“In 1951 the People’s Food Institute (Lembaga Makanan Rakyat LMR) was founded, chaired by Prof. Poorwo Soedarmo, a scholar who later became known as the ‘Father of Indonesian Nutrition’. The aim of establishing LMR was to improve the nutritional and health status of the Indonesian people, especially after the privations suffered during the war of independence; the institution later became a forerunner to the birth of Sarihusada. However, the plain fact is that until the present Indonesia continues to suffer nutritional problems, a matter that must be resolved immediately, one aspect of which is to achieve the stunting target, moving it from 21.6% in 2022 to 14% this year,” declared Arif Mujahidin, Corporate Communication Director of Sarihusada, in a media meeting with the theme “The Importance of Proper Nutrition for Maximum Growth and Development Children” which was held Thursday (25/1/2024). 

Every year the estimated net growth of Indonesia’s population reaches almost four million people. Fulfillment of balanced nutrition for children will determine the realization of a Golden Generation 2045. Based on the 2018 Basic Health Research (Riskesdas), 1 in 3 children aged 0-59 months suffers from anemia; 17.7% of children under five are malnourished, while 30.8% of toddlers are very short and stunted. Indonesia is even included in the 5 countries with the highest prevalence of anemia in Southeast Asia. 

dr. Juwalita Surapsari, Sp.GK, M.Gizi
dr. Juwalita Surapsari, Sp.GK, M.Gizi (IO/Esti)

“Iron deficiency anemia is a risk factor for stunting. To reduce the stunting rate, Indonesian children must be free from anemia. Animal protein, contained in eggs, meat, and growth milk (highly enriched in iron) can forestall anemia,” said dr. Juwalita Surapsari, Sp.GK, M.Gizi, a nutritionist from Pondok Indah Hospital, Jakarta. 

Iron is an essential element of almost all living organisms, as it is chemically active in a wide variety of metabolic processes, including oxygen transport, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) synthesis, and electron transport. The body needs iron to form the heme compounds in hemoglobin. 

“Hemoglobin transports oxygen throughout the body, so cells can function optimally in metabolizing energy for children to be alert, active in exploring and ready to learn. Iron acts as a cofactor for various enzymes involved in the formation of nerve myelin (sheath) and neurotransmitters, so that the delivery of information to the brain becomes smooth. This can influence behavior, learning, and memory. Daily iron requirements according to age: 6-11 months 11mg; 1-3 years 7mg; 4-6 years 10mg,” she said. 

Iron has a certain mechanism that enables it to be easily absorbed in the intestines, “Iron in food is found in two forms, namely, heme and nonheme. Heme iron is found in animal products such as beef, liver, fish, and poultry, which is more easily absorbed. On the other hand, non-heme iron is found in vegetable products in the form of Fe3+ and must first be converted into Fe2+ before being absorbed. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) plays a role in changing this form so that it can be absorbed in the intestine.” 

Enhancers and Inhibitors 

The condition of anemia has the potential to negatively affect children throughout the life cycle: adolescents who are anemic will grow up and give birth to children who are also anemic. “Make sure your child consumes a balanced nutritional menu that contains animal protein rich in iron and milk. 300 ml of growth milk every day helps prevent stunting. Pay attention to food labels, because not all milk is the same. Growth milk must enriched with iron, vitamin C, DHA, and fish oil to optimize children’s nutritional intake, according to their development stage. Growth milk containing iron combined with vitamin C supports iron absorption up to two times more effectively,” dr. Juwita said. 

Read: Six Province Sare Still “Leprosy Endemic”

Meanwhile, Dr. dr. Ray Wagiu Basrowi, MKK, Medical & Scientific Affairs Director of Sarihusada, said that the health of Indonesian children needs to be a serious concern for all parties. “Last year we launched the educational campaign initiative ‘Together Prevent Anemia, Optimize the Cognition of the Advanced Generation’ through digital platforms. If not handled properly, nutritional health problems have the potential to disrupt the physical health and cognitive aspects of both children and adults,” he stated. 

Apart from diet, preventing stunting should including parenting and sanitation. Then dr. Juwalita added tips for meeting iron needs with: Know the daily iron requirement figures; Provide food sources of nutrients; Include enhancer factors and avoid inhibitor factors. “Vitamin C is an enhancer that can increase iron absorption, the opposite is an inhibitor factor. Phytates in cereal grains and legumes and polyphenols in tea, coffee, and chocolate are a group of inhibitory factors that can inhibit iron absorption,” she warned, concluding her talk. (est)

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