“Lucky Iron Fish” heals anemia in Cambodia

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

lucky iron fish
The creators of “Lucky Iron Fish” help villagers understand how to cook with their fish by hosting public demonstrations that are fun and colorful.

A fish-shaped chunk of iron is changing thousands of lives in Cambodia, helping to cure a condition known as anemia with extra nutritional iron.

See, if our body doesn’t have enough iron, it can’t produce enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells. When we breathe in oxygen through our lungs, our heart pumps it through our circulatory system, using healthy red blood cells to clean organs along the way.

Because Cambodia is still a developing country, many of its citizens don’t get enough iron-rich foods like nuts, beef, and spinach. As a result, when Canadian science graduate Christopher Charles visited Cambodia 6 years ago, he discovered a major public health issue with anemia. Kids were underdeveloped physically and mentally, while women felt tired and had lots of headaches.

Usually, iron supplements can help get rid of anemia, but they’re too costly and not widely available for Cambodians. Fortunately, Dr. Charles knew past studies had shown that food cooked in cast iron pots increased nutritional iron content. So, he designed a chunk of iron that villagers could use while cooking. It’s shaped like a fish, which is considered a lucky symbol in Cambodian culture, and it cured nearly half of the villagers after a year! This is great news for other developing countries like Cambodia, where nearly 50 percent of women and children suffer from iron-deficient anemia. Dr. Charles believes that proper use of the iron fish can offer 75 percent of an adult’s daily iron needs, and even more for kids.

Images courtesy of Lucky Iron Fish Facebook.