Anemia, a condition where the body is not producing enough healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen to the tissues is a common ailment. Caused by a diet that is deficient in iron, its symptoms range from fatigue and dizziness to weakened cognitive ability and stunted development in children.
Though the condition can easily be reversed by consuming iron-rich foods like meat, eggs, and leafy greens, such options are not available in countries like Cambodia, where the primary diet consists of rice and fish. Though iron supplements are certainly an option, they are expensive and often result in negative side effects. Now, thanks to this tiny iron fish, there may be an easy solution to a problem that affects over two billion people globally.
All users have to do, is boil the smiling fish in water or soup for about ten minutes. The metal is then extracted and set aside for reuse. Adding a generous splash of lemon to the water ensures that the body can absorb the iron left behind by the metal fish when exposed to heat. According to the manufacturer, Ontario-based Lucky Iron Fish Company, consuming the iron-infused water or soup just once a day provides a majority of the recommended daily iron intake.
The simple solution is the brainchild of Christopher Charles. The University of Guelph public health researcher says he came up with the idea six years ago, after observing how Cambodia's iron-deficient diet was stunting kids' growth and leaving women fatigued. Drawing from previous research that showed cooking in an iron pan increased the iron content of the food, Charles decided to design a nontoxic ingot from high-quality ferrous iron.
However, Charles soon realized that while Cambodian women were happy to use the lump of iron as a door-stopper or to balance uneven furniture, they did not want it in their food. After conducting further research, he came with the idea of the smiling fish, which is considered a symbol of good luck in Cambodia. It worked like a charm! Within nine months there was a 50% decrease in anemia amongst the test group that used the "lucky" iron fish on a daily basis and things have only improved since.
In order to ensure that every Cambodian resident can benefit from this simple solution, Lucky Fish Company donates a fish for every purchase made. Those wishing to simply donate can do so by contributing $25 USD for a "school” of five fish that the company distributes to families in need. The company also helps the local economy by employing 50 residents and partnering with local organizations to help spread the word and distribute the product.
Experts believe that the tiny innovation could be a game changer for some countries. That's because healthy iron levels allow for better concentration, greater resistance to disease, and more energy, all of which contribute to increased success at work and school.
It is no wonder that the Lucky Fish Company has been the recipient of so many accolades, including a nomination for the 2015 Edison Innovation Award. But there is no time to rest on past achievements. The company plans to expand to other Southeast Asian countries and also globally, and help create healthier nations, one iron fish at a time!