When Christopher Charles was searching for the best place to do his Post-Doctoral Fellowship, finding a university that offered world class training opportunities was at the top of his list.
Fortunately, he found exactly what he was looking for in our Faculty.
“The International Nutrition Group at LFS is very involved in research to improve nutrition in poor, remote, and otherwise neglected areas of the world,” he said. “Joining the team allowed me to learn from experts in the field.”
Charles is currently working with LFS researchers Judy McLean and Tim Green on the Fish on Farms project, which aims to increase and diversify food production and nutrition for small, rural households in Cambodia (see front cover). He’s already well acquainted with the country, having lived and studied in Cambodia for the past few years.
Prior to finishing his PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Guelph, Charles was awarded a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) grant to study anemia in Cambodia at the population-level. While there, he had the inspired idea to try supplementing iron-deficient diets with an iron ingot. The ingot is placed in a cooking pot, preferably when cooking soup or boiling water, and releases iron at a slow but steady rate.
“For the design, we chose a species of fish that is considered lucky in Cambodian culture,” he said. “People really latched onto the concept.”
An iron-rich diet isn’t the only benefit. In rural Cambodia, a one-month supply of iron pills can cost $2.50 US and are not always easy to get. The iron fish, on the other hand, costs $1.50 and can provide iron for the whole family.
“The results are far more promising than I expected,” Charles said, adding that in a 12-month long community trial, he saw a two-fold reduction in the prevalence of anemia. In addition, women began to store iron for use in times of increased need, such as pregnancy.
“It’s very important for a woman to enter pregnancy in an iron-sufficient state, so to be able to provide a cheap and easy solution to a population in need is very exciting.”