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Vegetarianism has important implications for maternal iron-deficiency in India, in terms of the availability and chemical form of iron in plant-based foods.Although a vegetarian diet is likely to contain iron in amounts equivalent to that in omnivorous diets, animal-based haemoglobin iron is better absorbed (15–40% absorption) compared with plant-based nonhaemoglobin iron (1–15% absorption), despite variations in body iron stores [18].Iron-deficiency also has important consequences for the future generations, as iron-deficiency anaemia increases the risk for preterm labour, low birth weight, infant mortality and predicts iron-deficiency in infants after 4 months of age [5, 6].Anaemia, of which iron-deficiency is the major contributor, accounts for 3.7% and 12.8% of maternal deaths during pregnancy and childbirth in Africa and Asia, respectively [7].About 75% of Indian vegetarians are lactovegetarians (i.e., do not consume meat or eggs, with no prohibition for milk or other dairy products), with up to 25% being lactovovegetarians (who do not eat meat, with no prohibition on eggs and dairy products).

Significant public health implications are more commonly associated with moderate to severe anaemia, defined as haemoglobin level below 10 g/d L.More frequently it coexists with a number of other causes, such as malaria, parasitic infection, nutritional deficiencies, and haemoglobinopathies.The importance of iron-deficiency as cause of anaemia varies by region.It also leads to cognitive deficits and reduced intellectual performance among school children [8].

In communities where iron-deficiency is highly prevalent, successful iron supplementation results in the disappearance of anaemia as a public health problem except where malaria and HIV or hookworm infection rates are high [9].This cost is disproportional borne by developing nations as 60% of the morbidity and 95% of the mortality related to iron-deficiency are derived from the poorest nations of the world.