Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is a serious public health problem that debilitates ∼1.6 billion people globally every year, the majority being pregnant women and children from developing countries. In India, for example, in spite of several operational programs at the national level using iron-folic acid and other allopathic interventions, IDA is still prevalent. Traditional medicines, such as Ayurveda, prescribe herbal formulations containing sugarcane derivatives for the management of pandu, a condition similar to IDA. This article reviews molasses, a sugar industry by-product, as a potential raw material to develop nutraceutical products for IDA. Molasses contains iron and its absorption enhancers, such as sulfur, fructose, and copper, which make it a potential dietary supplement for IDA. More research, product development, and evidence of safety and efficacy of molasses in IDA management can provide a tasty and cost-effective dietary supplement, particularly for children. However, there are challenges, such as competition for raw material from refined sugar manufacturers, quality control, etc., that need to be overcome.
Keywords: Ayurveda; dietary formulation; iron deficiency anemia; pandu; sugarcane molasses.