Nestlé has assisted in and helped fund the development of the first iron deficiency test that does not require taking a blood sample. The work could benefit millions of people by making it easier and cheaper to detect the condition.
Iron deficiency affects more people than any other health problem, according to the World Health Organization. Women and children are particularly at risk, and left untreated it can cause serious mental and physical harm.
Most iron-deficient individuals are unaware that they need more iron. This is because current tests require taking blood and laboratory facilities to analyse it.
The new test for iron deficiency, described in research published in Nature Communications (pdf, 500 Kb), takes about a minute and provides immediate results.
It involves using a small optical fibre to shine a blue laser light onto the lower lip. If zinc protoporphyrin – a chemical compound found in the blood of iron deficient people – is present, then it gives off a fluorescent light in response.
In addition to supporting such research, Nestlé is committed to reducing the risk of iron deficiency through micronutrient fortification, and provided more than 183 billion servings of fortified food worldwide in 2014.