Deleterious Functional Impact of Anemia on Young Adolescent Schoolgirls

Abstract: Iron deficiency anemia during adolescence may reduce physical work capacity and cognitive function.
Objectives: To assess the physical work capacity and cognition of underprivileged anemic schoolgirls in Vadodara in early adolescence as compared to their non-anemic counterparts.
Design: Prior to initiating anemia control interventions, schoolgirls in early adolescence were studied with regard to their hemoglobin status, physical work capacity and cognitive functions. Setting: Schoolgirls from four municipal primary schools in the age of 9 – 14 years were studied.
Methods: In four Primary Municipal schools, hemoglobin of subjects was assessed using standard methods; physical work capacity using Modified Harvard’s Step test and cognitive functions using selected tests from the modified Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), suitably adapted for this group (n = 230).
Results: The mean hemoglobin was 11.32 g/dL, and anemia prevalence: 67 %. A higher number of steps were climbed and a shorter time was taken to revert to the basal pulse rate (recovery time) by non-anemic girls compared to anemic girls (P<0.001). Significantly lower scores in digit span and visual memory test were seen in anemic compared to non-anemic girls. The adverse impact of anemia remained after controlling for under–nutrition (BMI).
Conclusion: Anemia is likely to adversely affect physical work capacity and cognition in young adolescent girls undergoing pubertal development. Further research should be conducted in both school and community based settings to cover non-school going children.

Indian Pediatrics
Sen A, Kanani SJ