Objective: To complete a systematic review of the effect of preparing food cooked in iron pots on haemoglobin concentrations and to assess compliance with pot use. DESIGN AND SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness, The Cochrane Controlled trials Register, The Cochrane Methodology Register, Health Technology Assessment Database and NHS Economic Evaluation Database (Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 2002). Medline (1966 to May 2002) and EMBASE (1988 to May 2002). Reference lists of published trials were examined for other potentially relevant trials and authors of selected trials were contacted to obtain information about ongoing or unpublished trials. Selection criteria included randomized trials which compared the effect of food cooked in cast iron pots with food cooked in noncast iron pots on participants of a minimum age of 4 months. One reviewer applied inclusion criteria to potentially relevant trials. Two reviewers assessed trial quality and extracted data.
Results: Three trials were eligible for inclusion in the review. There is some evidence from these studies that eating food prepared in iron pots increases the haemoglobin concentration of anaemic/iron deficient individuals. This effect seems to be modified by compliance, users age, and the presence of malaria and hookworm. Compliance with pot use varies considerably between countries depending on several factors, including: size of the cooking pot, targeted user group, whether the pot is used as an extra or replacement pot, and familiarity with cast iron pots.
Conclusion: The introduction of iron pots or improving their use in communities in developing countries for the preparation of food maybe a promising innovative intervention for reducing iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia. Further research is required to monitor the use and effectiveness of this intervention.