How a metal fish could mean better health in the developing world

A Canadian doctor working in Cambodia has developed a novel solution dietary iron deficiency, a widespread problem in the developing world. 

The device, called the Lucky Iron Fish, is exactly what it sounds like: a small fish made of iron. When cooked along with food, it imbues the food with iron—making it significantly easier for people to get their proper iron intake.

Normally people with anemia—or too little iron—can supplement with pills or through changing their diet, but those pills are expensive and come with many unpleasant side-effects. Getting more iron through natural dietary choices (like eating more red meat or raw leafy greens) is not an option for many people living in poverty in the developing world, the BBC reported.

The Iron Fish is a great solution because of its simplicity. It’s easy to use, cheap, and reusable.

Iron is crucial for the development of red blood cells and for proper circulation. When people breathe in oxygen, it binds to the iron on red blood cells. The cells then carry it through the body and deliver it to the rest of the body. Without enough iron to carry all the oxygen, the organs of the body live in a state of low-oxygen and slowly suffocate, leading to poor mental development in children, fatigue, weakness and many other side effects.

The Iron Fish helps adults get up to 75 percent of their daily iron intake, when used properly every day according to studies led by Dr. Christopher Charles, who invented the device. Charles is determined to get the iron fish in more developed countries and to conduct more clinical trials to prove its efficacy.

Charles is also working with local agencies to promote and distribute the iron fish, and in doing so helping more Cambodians find work.

Screengrab via Lucky Iron Fish/YouTube

Cynthia McKelvey

Cynthia McKelvey

Cynthia McKelvey covered the health and science for the Daily Dot until 2017. She earned a graduate degree in science communication from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2014. Her work has appeared in Gizmodo, Scientific American Mind, and Mic.com.