Prevention of Iron Deficiency
Iron is an essential mineral for our health, needed for transporting oxygen to the brain and the body. Iron deficiency and anemia are widespread, affecting around 2 billion people worldwide, with a very high rate in children and in women during pregnancy due to the increased iron needs of these populations. It is considered a crisis in pediatric healthcare, due to the dire effect of iron deficiency on 50% of children worldwide and 15% of children in the US alone. Iron deficiency can cause severe developmental problems and permanent brain damage to infants and toddlers and decrease school performance in older children. Although abundant in nature, it is difficult for many children to get enough iron into their body in a way that can be absorbed and used.
The Pointsman Foundation board member and pediatrician Steven Abrams pioneered the use of completely safe, naturally occurring rare isotopes (iron-57 and iron-58) to assess and optimize absorption of iron into the body. The methodology is proven, but implementation with large population studies was not possible due to the prohibitive cost of the enriched isotopes, and the slow and tedious analysis of blood samples.
The Pointsman Foundation can have a great impact on children’s health by producing enriched stable isotopes of iron and using them as markers to optimize absorption of iron in fortified foods and beverages. We will use methods of fast sample preparation and ultra-sensitive laser spectroscopy to enable rapid testing of small blood samples and determine iron absorption. We propose to conduct a pilot study of these methods in the Austin area, which will then be implemented in the US and ultimately worldwide. After iron, we plan to address other essential mineral deficiencies such as zinc and calcium, to ensure proper development of at-risk children. Iron deficiency is a preventable and treatable condition, and the Pointsman Foundation will lead the way.