Iron status of women is associated with the iron concentration of potable groundwater in rural Bangladesh

Rebecca D. Merrill, Abu Ahmed Shamim, Hasmot Ali, Nusrat Jahan, Alain B. Labrique, Kerry Schulze, Parul Christian, Keith P. West

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46 Scopus citations


Women of reproductive age are at a high risk of iron deficiency, often as a result of diets low in bioavailable iron. In some settings, the iron content of domestic groundwater sources is high, yet its contribution to iron intake and status has not been examined. In a rural Bangladeshi population of women deficient in dietary iron, we evaluated the association between groundwater iron intake and iron status. In 2008, participants (n = 209 with complete data) were visited to collect data on 7-d food frequency, 7-d morbidity history, 24-h drinking water intake, and rice preparation, and to measure the groundwater iron concentration. Blood was collected to assess iron and infection status. Plasma ferritin (μg/L) and body iron (mg/kg) concentrations were [median (IQR)] 67 (46, 99) and 10.4±2.6, respectively, and the prevalenceof iron deficiency (ferritin < 12 μg/L) was 0%. Daily iron intake from water [42 mg (18, 71)] was positively correlated with plasma ferritin (r = 0.36) and total body iron (r = 0.35) (P < 0.001 for both). In adjusted linear regression analyses, plasma ferritin increased by 6.1% (95% CI: 3.8, 8.4%) and body iron by 0.3 mg/kg (0.2, 0.4) for every 10-mg increase in iron intake from water (P < 0.001). In this rural area of northern Bangladesh, women of reproductive age had no iron deficiency likely attributable to iron consumed from drinking groundwater, which contributed substantially to dietary intake. These findings suggest that iron intake from water should be included in dietary assessments in such settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)944-949
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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