Improving Iron Intake To Boost Filipinos’ Overall Wellbeing

The 2021 Expanded National Nutrition Survey of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) found that the prevalence of anemia has been steadily decreasing in the Philippines. However, it remains to be a public health concern as it continues to affect 10.4 percent of all Filipinos, especially among high-risk groups such as young children and pregnant women. The most common cause of anemia is iron deficiency.  MAGGI, the trusted ally of homecooks, calls on continued public and private efforts to ensure adequate iron intake, especially among children, to prevent the long-term effects of iron deficiency on Filipinos’ health.

Interventions to address iron deficiency 

The World Health Organization (WHO) believes that deficiencies in micronutrients such as iron can be prevented through comprehensive strategies that focus on micronutrient supplementation, school or community-based feeding programs, nutrition education to promote a balanced diet, and food fortification.

Under the MAGGI Sarap Sustansya Advocacy, MAGGI has ongoing partnerships with the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) to increase Filipinos’ understanding of a diversified diet, and the importance of including excellent sources of iron such as lean meats, poultry, legumes, and dark leafy greens. Through its recipe services, culinary workshops and engaging school programs such as the Sarap Sustansya Cooking Competition, MAGGI helps youth and families to create tasty dishes based on healthy iron sources to help encourage the consumption of iron-rich food.

Fortification, or the addition of relevant micronutrients to food and beverages, can help improve the nutritional status of people at risk. When relevant nutrients are unavailable or difficult to access, food fortification – whether by the mandatory fortification of staple foods or voluntary fortification of processed foods – can help improve nutrient adequacy. In 2022, Nestlé Philippines helped families get the nutrition they need by delivering 25 bio servings of fortified food. Today, MAGGI has iron in its Magic Sarap brand of all-in-one seasoning.

“Addressing iron deficiency is crucial to promote optimal health outcomes for the Filipino population,” said Rosalyn Simba, Business Executive Officer – Food and Dairy Culinary Business Unit at Nestlé Philippines. “This is why an essential part of the MAGGI Sarap Sustansya advocacy is to help improve Filipinos’ access to iron-rich food through our recipe services, nutrition outreach activities in schools and communities and the fortification of our products.”

The importance of iron in Filipinos’ daily diet

Iron is a mineral and one of the essential micronutrients our body needs, contributing to key functions such as red blood cell formation, releasing energy, cognitive development and boosting the immune system. It is commonly found in animal and plant food, but many people don’t get enough iron in their diet. When the body’s iron stores become so low that not enough normal red blood cells can be made to carry oxygen efficiently, a condition known as iron deficiency anemia develops. 

If left unchecked, this condition can have severe health consequences and affect the performance of daily tasks. In adults, iron deficiency can cause fatigue, weakness, decreased work productivity, and compromised immune function. Pregnant women with iron deficiency are at a higher risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, adversely affecting both maternal and fetal health. Iron deficiency can have a profound impact specifically on children. It can lead to stunted growth, impaired cognitive function, and reduced immune response, making them more susceptible to infections. 

According to WHO, anemia, ‘as a public health issue, needs to be addressed from multiple perspectives and through multiple coordinated efforts – each with specific and complementary roles to collectively achieve anemia reduction and improve health and well-being’. An emphasis on promoting a balanced diet, supplementation when necessary, and fortification of staple foods can enhance iron intake and combat iron deficiency, ensuring optimal health and wellbeing for all Filipinos.