According to common belief, iron is synonymous with strength and recovery, the warrior that combats weakening conditions such as anemia. Nevertheless, how beneficial it is for kids directly depends on the amount they consume.
A new study launched by the University of Michigan
indicates that unnecessary, extra iron in infants could delay their
development. This statement adds fuel to the existing controversy
over optimal levels of iron supplements and could have huge
implications for baby formula and baby food products.
According to Betsy Lozoff, professor and researcher at the University of Michigan’sCenter for Human Growth and Development and head researcher of this study, baby formulas in the United States typically come fortified with 12 mg/liter of iron to prevent iron deficiency anemia. Europe generally uses a lower amount. Iron deficiency anemia in infants is associated with poorer development, and during pregnancy it contributes to anemia in mothers which leads to premature births, low birth weight, and other complications.
“That's why I thought that behavior and development would be better with the formula that contains 12 milligrams,” said Lozoff, who is also a professor of pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at the University's School of Medicine.
The study carried out on 494 Chilean children showed that those who received iron-fortified formula at the 12mg level used in the United States lagged behind those who received low-iron formula in cognitive and visual/motor development by the age of 10.
In fact, Lozoff added that the 5% of the study
group with the highest hemoglobin levels at 6 months showed the
poorest results. The body needs iron in order to make hemoglobin
which is a substance in red blood cells that enables them to carry
oxygen. A high hemoglobin level generally indicates sufficient
Lozoff noted that not many infants in Chilehad high hemoglobin levels at the time the trial was done since there was no iron fortification program for kids, and that more than 5% of infants in the U.S. could have high hemoglobin levels in early infancy.
In this randomized study, healthy infants without iron deficiency anemia were given formula with either 12 mg or 2.3 mg of iron from 6 to 12 months and were observed for 10 years. The next step is to test the participants again once they turn 16, or in six years, Lozoff said.
Iron deficiency occurs because babies grow so quickly that sometimes they exceed the amount of iron they were born with. Breast milk is believed to contain the amount of iron a baby needs for 4 to 6 months, Lozoff indicated. Other significant sources of iron for infants include iron-fortified baby formulas, cereals, and meat.
The paper titled "Poorer Development Outcome at 10 Years with 12 mg Iron Fortified Formula in Infancy" was presented on May 5th at the Pediatric Academic Society annual meeting in Honolulu. The infancy and follow-up studies were supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health ( NIH).
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