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Press Release: Lucky Iron Fish update on clinical trial in Preah Vihear, Cambodia

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The universities of British Columbia and Guelph (Canada) working with Lucky Iron Fish Inc. have completed the preliminary analysis of a 12-month trial looking at the effects of the fish and iron supplements on the iron status of women in Preah Vihear – a province in the northern part of Cambodia.  Anemia is a serious health issue in Cambodia as it affects 54% of women of reproductive age. Previously, like many parts of the world, the predominant cause of anemia was thought to be iron deficiency. Recent data from South East Asia suggested that the condition may be more complicated with a significant proportion of the population suffering from anemia due to inherited conditions that prevent satisfactory production of the hemoglobin. Iron supplementation is recommended in populations where anemia prevalence is high. However, there are issues of cost, distribution and compliance with iron supplementation. A potential alternative is the Lucky Iron Fish® (LIF®), a reusable fish-shaped iron ingot which, when added to the cooking pot, leaches iron into the boiling water or soup in which it is prepared.

The Lucky Iron Fish:

The Lucky Iron Fish was developed specifically to tackle iron deficiency anemia. Two clinical trials in Cambodia have shown that the fish can be effective. Data has been accumulating recently to suggest that anemia may be an inherited condition or due to severe blood loss from parasitic infestation or depression of erythropoiesis due to chronic disease. The Lucky Iron Fish was not developed to tackle these causes of anemia. However, it is likely that anemia may have more than one cause in the same individual so may still be useful among the tools available to prevent and treat the condition.

Primary outcomes:

1. There is a very low rate of iron deficiency in Preah Vihear province (<10%) and a high prevalence of genetic conditions that cause problems in the production of hemoglobin. In addition, infections with hookworm and malaria may cause blood loss leading to anemia.

2. Neither the Lucky Iron Fish nor the iron supplement reduced the prevalence of anemia or improved hemoglobin (the principal marker in the blood for anemia) compared to control.

Potential impact:

The trial confirms that there is a high prevalence of anemia due to genetic abnormalities among the sample population in Preah Vihear – higher than seen in other parts of Cambodia. These defects result in inadequate production of hemoglobin as the primary cause of anemia in the region. The Lucky Iron Fish is not effective against this cause of anemia as it was designed to combat iron deficiency anemia, which is still recognized as a serious global health problem in many regions. Data from studies in other jurisdiction supports that claim that the Lucky Iron Fish is effective at changing iron status among people who suffer from iron deficiency anemia.

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