Essential vitamins to combat thalassemia in children

Thalassemia is a hereditary condition that causes mild or severe anemia, affecting the health of the red blood cells. This disorder is caused due to fewer red blood cells (erythrocytes) than normal and reduced hemoglobin – the substance that allows these cells to transport oxygen in the body. This genetic condition is a result of a variant or missing gene affecting the production of hemoglobin in the body.

Vitamins are needed to support the human body. These essential nutrients cannot be produced by the human body as per the daily dietary requirements and therefore must be obtained from dietary sources. Similarly, children suffering from thalassemia need to be careful of their diet and ensure that they consume a balanced diet for a healthy body. There are some essential vitamins that they should ingest as per the daily dietary recommendation.

Vitamin A (Retinol)

This fat-soluble vitamin aids cell reproduction. It also helps to maintain a healthy immune system. Remember that excessive vitamin A can be toxic for the body. Do not consume more than the recommended daily allowance without consulting your doctor. The body can convert beta-carotene and other carotenoids to produce vitamin A. The supplements of this nutrient are available in form of retinol or retinyl palmitate. In adults, the daily recommended dose of 900 mcg by men aged 19 years and older and 700 mcg by women aged 19 years and older should be consumed. Foods rich in vitamin A are milk, butter, cheese, beef and chicken amongst other foods.

B9 (Folic Acid)

Folic acid is also referred as vitamin B9. It plays an important role in cell maintenance and repair. It aids in facilitating body processes by acting as a catalyst for creation of DNA and formation of red and white blood cells. According to the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH), vitamin B9 (folate) is naturally present in food which also aids in amino acid metabolism . When this nutrient is provided in a synthetic form to supplement its deficiency, it is called folic acid. Thalassemia patients, especially children have a tendency for folate deficiencies. Supplements in form of tablets and capsules are available as over the counter and prescribes drugs. Vitamin B9 works closely with vitamin B12 for production of healthy red blood cells in the body. Foods rich in folic acid are green leafy vegetables, whole grains, wheat germ, orange juice and more. People aged 19 years and above require 400 mcg each day as per RDA.

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)

People ailing with thalassemia should follow a nutritious diet that includes adequate amounts of Vitamin B12. Consumption of nutriments like walnuts, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, peanuts, bananas and more can help achieve the daily recommended dosage of 25 mg for Vitamin B12. This nutrient helps to maintain healthy nerve cells and aids in production of DNA and RNA. It works closely with Vitamin B9 to generate S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), a compound involved in immune function and mood and also helps in production of red blood cells. Higher deficiency of B12 can cause nerve damage. Coblamin supplements available in a variety of forms, including tablets, softgels, and lozenges should be taken (if advised) 2 hours before bedtime for a couple of weeks to see positive results. Vegetarians who do not eat any animal products should opt for a supplement of this vitamin with water, preferably after eating.

Vitamin C

People suffering from thalassemia are recommended not to consume any form of iron supplements, as excessive iron in the body can damage the organs. In case of iron overload, thalassemia patients need chelation therapy to remove this surplus iron from their body. High intake of Vitamin C increases the production of active iron in cells which makes more iron available chelation therapy. Thalassemia patients already have iron overload due to regular blood transfusion. Vitamin C is therefore acts as a catalyst in this therapy. Dosages between 100 to 250 mg are recommended as beneficial for thalassemia patients.

Vitamin D

This vitamin is essential for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous, which aid in maintaining healthy bones. This fat soluble vitamin helps to regulate the immune system, critical for people suffering thalassemia. The two dietary forms of vitamin D are cholecalciferol and ergocalciferol which can be naturally found in foods. Cod liver oil is the best natural form of this vitamin. Eggs and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are also a great source of vitamin D. Sun is the natural source of vitamin D, available in abundance. A normal adult between 19 – 50 years requires 600 IU as per RDA of vitamin D.

Vitamin E

Vitamin helps in regulation of gene expression and other metabolic processes and enhances the immune system. On an average vitamin E is higher than the RDA in healthy adults. This fat soluble anti-oxidant helps in cell proliferation and aids in formation of smooth muscle cells. It is also known to aid production of platelets and monocytes. It aggravates the release of prostacyclin from the endothelium, promoting dilation of blood vessels thereby inhibiting platelet aggregation. Foods rich in vitamin A are nuts, almonds, peanuts, dried apricots and more. As per the daily dietary recommendation, one should consume 1000 mg of vitamin E each day. Children suffering from this condition should note that excessive dosage of vitamin E can inhibit platelet aggregation.

Vitamin K

This vitamin affects the blood’s clotting ability, thereby affecting the production of hemoglobin in patients ailing from thalassemia. Vitamin K also helps to build bones. This fat soluble nutrient is also produced by the bacteria in the intestines. Certain foods like green leafy vegetables provide the recommended dietary sources of this nutrient to ensure that one does not develop a vitamin K deficiency. Other sources of this vitamin could include food items like spinach, kale, broccoli and green tea. Green tea is also a powerful antioxidant, which helps in strengthening the body constitution. As per the dietary recommendation for vitamin K, an average of 90 micrograms per day should consumed by women and an average of 120 micrograms per day should be ingested by men.

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