Anemia is a condition caused by an iron deficiency. Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in your blood. Your body gets iron from food, especially meats, green vegetables and iron-fortified cereals. In some cases, anemia is due to problems with your intestines, which can reduce the amount of iron your body absorbs. For example, if you have celiac disease, a small bowel disorder or an operation that involves part of your intestines, it can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb iron and other nutrients.

Malnutrition, including anemia, is common in rural northwestern China. A cross-sectional study of infants in rural Shaanxi found that specific socio-demographic characteristics and feeding practices were strongly associated with anemia. A dietary pattern consisting of high intakes of organ meats, rice or flour products and fried foods significantly increased the risk of anemia and decreased levels of hemoglobin, hematocrit and red blood cells but increased white blood cell counts and C-reactive protein.

Health risks of anemia

Untreated anemia can cause a variety of symptoms. These include fatigue, weakness and a general feeling of being unwell. Anemia can also cause an irregular heartbeat, which can lead to chest pain or a sensation of squeezing in the throat (palpitation). Anemia can be treated with dietary changes and supplements, depending on the underlying cause. In severe anemia, treatment may include blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants.