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Iron is a mineral used to make a component of red blood cells that transports oxygen to various tissues and organs (hemoglobin), and an oxygen-storing compound in muscles (myoglobin). Iron is also necessary for a healthy immune system, digestion, and hair and nail growth.
Deficiency can lead to anemia, a condition characterized by fatigue, shortness of breath, decreased appetite, and weakness. Iron status influences nervous system development and studies have linked early iron deficiency to alterations in cognitive function and behavior.
The study looked at adult outcomes of early iron deficiency by comparing 33 adults with a history of chronic iron deficiency as babies with 89 who had had normal iron levels. Here’s what the results showed:
Previous studies have found that it’s hard to make up for the losses that occur from early iron deficiency. The new study added some hope, noting that adult outcomes were good in people whose iron levels were corrected early on.
“This finding suggests that poor long-term outcomes, at least on measures of overall functioning, may be prevented if iron treatment is provided before iron deficiency becomes chronic and severe,” said lead author, Betsy Lozoff from the Center for Human Growth and Development and Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Due to their rapid growth, infants and toddlers require more iron.
(J Pediatr 2013;163:1260-6)