Iron supplementation in early childhood: Health benefits and risks

Department of International Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Impact Factor: 6.77). 01/2007; 84(6):1261-76.
Source: PubMed


The prevalence of iron deficiency among infants and young children living in developing countries is high. Because of its chemical properties--namely, its oxidative potential--iron functions in several biological systems that are crucial to human health. Iron, which is not easily eliminated from the body, can also cause harm through oxidative stress, interference with the absorption or metabolism of other nutrients, and suppression of critical enzymatic activities. We reviewed 26 randomized controlled trials of preventive, oral iron supplementation in young children (aged 0-59 mo) living in developing countries to ascertain the associated health benefits and risks. The outcomes investigated were anemia, development, growth, morbidity, and mortality. Initial hemoglobin concentrations and iron status were considered as effect modifiers, although few studies included such subgroup analyses. Among iron-deficient or anemic children, hemoglobin concentrations were improved with iron supplementation. Reductions in cognitive and motor development deficits were observed in iron-deficient or anemic children, particularly with longer-duration, lower-dose regimens. With iron supplementation, weight gains were adversely affected in iron-replete children; the effects on height were inconclusive. Most studies found no effect on morbidity, although few had sample sizes or study designs that were adequate for drawing conclusions. In a malaria-endemic population of Zanzibar, significant increases in serious adverse events were associated with iron supplementation, whereas, in Nepal, no effects on mortality in young children were found. More research is needed in populations affected by HIV and tuberculosis. Iron supplementation in preventive programs may need to be targeted through identification of iron-deficient children.

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    • "Studies have shown that iron deficiency causes delay in cognitive development and poor motor and sensory system functioning and that iron supplementation in early years may prevent these complications among children [4]. Conversely, there is an evidence suggesting that routine iron treatment in non-iron deficient children may have adverse consequences for morbidity and infections [5,6]. Therefore, it is very important to detect iron deficiency (ID) at its earliest stage in children especially in a low resource setting and replenish the iron stores by proper supplementation, thereby preventing many of the adverse developmental and behavioral effects caused by IDA. "
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    ABSTRACT: Current strategy to identify iron deficiency anemia relies on markers involving high costs. Reports have suggested red cell distribution width (RDW) as a potential screening test for identifying iron deficiency anemia (IDA) but studies in pediatric populations are lacking. Our study elucidates the discriminative ability of RDW for detecting IDA among young children. 2091 blood reports of children aged 1-3 years from an urban low socio-economic population of Delhi were analyzed to evaluate the sensitivity of RDW in discriminating IDA using receiver's operating characteristic curve. Hemoglobin and RDW were estimated using coulter, zinc protoporphyrin with AVIV fluorometer and serum ferritin by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay. A total of 1026 samples were classified as iron deficient anemia using gold standard. As a marker of overall efficiency, area under the curve for RDW was 0.83 (95% CI, 0.81- 0.84; p < 0.001). Sensitivity of RDW at cut-off of 18% to detect iron deficiency anemia was 76.5% and specificity 73.1% yielding a positive predictive value of 73% and negative predictive value of 76%. At a cut-off of RDW 16.4%, the sensitivity was 94% and at a cut-off of 21%, the specificity was 95%. Combination of hemoglobin <=10 g/dL and RDW >15%, yielded a sensitivity of 99% and specificity of 90%. These data suggest that simple coulter analysis estimating hemoglobin and RDW can be used for identification of children in need for iron therapy. In India and similar settings, RDW >15% with hemoglobin <=10.0 g/dL identifies iron deficient anemic children without need for iron status markers which could help reduce cost of management especially in poor settings.Trial registration: NCT00255385.
    BMC Pediatrics 01/2014; 14(1):8. DOI:10.1186/1471-2431-14-8 · 1.93 Impact Factor
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    • "Specifically, iron deficiency can lead to deficits in memory and behavioural regulation as iron is required to make neurotransmitters such as dopamine, epinephrine, and serotonin while impaired myelination contributes to deficits in motor function [15–17]. Some of these impairments are thought to be irreversible if they occur at an early age and the consequences may continue even after treatment, reinforcing the importance of prevention [15, 18, 19]. "
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to investigate the characteristics of our hospitalized patients with the diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia (IDA) and effects of the IDA prevention project of the Turkish Ministry of Health which was started in 2004. The recommended dose of prophylactic iron supplementation was 1-2 mg/kg/day. The files of 1519 patients who were hospitalized to Konya Education and Research Hospital Pediatrics Clinic were reviewed. A total of 50 patients consisting of 35 boys and 15 girls with the mean age of 16,59 ± 1,68 months were included into the study. The prevalence of IDA was 3.29% (boys: 4.23%, girls: 2.1%). Hgb and Hct of the patients >24 months were significantly higher than those of the patients with the age of 6-12 months. Iron supplementation receiving rates were very low. Of the 28 patients older than 12 months, only 44% of them had received a full course of iron supplementation for 8 months. In conclusion, although prophylactic iron supplementation lowered the prevalences of IDA, receiving rates of iron supplementation were not adequate. While IDA is still a public health problem, prophylactic approaches should be carried out more effectively.
    Anemia 12/2013; 2013:514801. DOI:10.1155/2013/514801
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    • "Although studies were performed to investigate the effect of iron supplementation on Hb concentration, the results were inconclusive [37]. A recent systematic review of 26 randomized controlled trials in children not infected with HIV showed positive results of iron supplementation with respect to recovery and the prevention of anemia [37]. In those studies, Hb concentrations consistently increased in iron-supplemented children who were anemic or had IDA at baseline. "
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    ABSTRACT: Anemia is a common complication of pediatric HIV infection and is associated with suboptimal cognitive performance and growth failure. Routine iron supplementation is not provided to South African HIV-infected children. We hypothesized that dietary iron intake without supplementation is sufficient to protect against iron deficiency (ID) in HIV-infected children receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy. In this prospective study, the difference between dietary intakes of iron-deficient children (soluble transferrin receptor >9.4 mg/L) and iron-sufficient children after 18 months on highly active antiretroviral therapy was examined. The association between iron intake and hemoglobin (Hb) concentration was also assessed. Longitudinal data collected for 18 months from 58 HIV-infected African children were assessed by generalized estimation equations, with adjustment for demographic information, dietary intakes, growth parameters, and CD4%. After adjustment for covariates, the longitudinal association between dietary iron intake and Hb concentration remained significant. This association shows that for every 1-mg increase in iron intake per day, Hb increases by 1.1 g/L (P < .001). Mean Hb increased significantly after 18 months of follow-up (106 ± 14 to 129 ± 14 g/L, P < .01), but soluble transferrin receptor also increased (7.7 ± 2.7 to 8.9 ± 3.0 mg/L, P < .01). The incidence of ID increased from 15.2% at baseline to 37.2% after 18 months. Children with animal protein intakes greater than >20 g/d had significantly lower odds for ID at 18 months than did children with lower intakes (odds ratio, 0.40; 95% confidence interval, 0.21-0.77). Dietary iron intake was insufficient to protect against ID, pointing to a need for low-dose iron supplementation for iron-deficient HIV-infected children and interventions to increase the consumption of animal protein.
    Nutrition research 01/2013; 33(1):50-8. DOI:10.1016/j.nutres.2012.11.008 · 2.47 Impact Factor
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