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Increased iron content of some Indian foods due to cookware

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Iron deficiency is widespread throughout the world (1), including the United States (2-5), India (6), and in Indians living in Western countries (7,8). It is caused mainly by inadequate intake and poor availability of iron in food (9). Prevention is important because iron deficiency can irreversibly damage brain function and impair the immune system (1). Research has raised concern about high iron stores relative to heart attacks (10) and colon cancer (11), although one study found an inverse association of iron stores with overall mortality and mortality from cardiovascular causes (12). Measuring iron status is recommended because an estimated 6% of Americans have negative iron balance and 1% have iron overload (13).

When calculating dietary iron levels, the iron obtained from cookware should be considered. Enhancing factors (eg, ascorbic acid and meat) increase absorption of nonheme iron (14,15). Cooking food in iron skillets (16) or steel woks (17) increases its iron content. Iron added to food by iron cookware is bioavailable (18,19), and both used and new iron cookware increase the iron content of food (20).

The Indian population is increasing in the United States (21). In India, the main source of dietary iron is staple food, such as rice or wheat. Indians consume large quantities of beans, pulses, and cereals (6). Cookware includes the iron karhai (which resembles a wok) and tava (a flat skillet) (22). Certain indigenous Indian foods produced in iron utensils contain significant amounts of iron (6). The purpose of this study was to investigate the food practices of Indians living in the United States and the effect of cookware on iron content of same Indian foods.


A researcher telephoned members of the Indian Association of West Texas and of the Indian Students Association at Texas Tech University, asked them to complete a questionnaire, and mailed...