A study of 185 Costa Rican teenagers shows that babies with the worst iron deficiency never recovered on tests of learning, memory and thinking and the poorest of these children worsened as they got older.
The report, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, shows the importance of early nutrition for babies, the researchers said.
"If direct and indirect effects of early iron deficiency on the brain disrupted or delayed basic developmental processes, there could be a snowball effect," said Dr. Betsy Lozoff of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who led the study.Babies with low iron levels were given supplements but some never got up to normal levels, even though the treatment took care of the worst cases, diagnosed as anemia, in all the infants.
A second study in the same journal found that children who kept drinking cow's milk from bottles past the age of a year were more likely to be iron-deficient than babies the same age who drank from a cup.
Dr. Trenna Sutcliffe of the University of Toronto and colleagues tested 150 healthy children, aged 12 to 38 months, who drank unfortified cow milk.
They found that 37 percent of the bottle-fed babies and 18 percent of the cup-fed children had lower than desired iron levels.
"The bottle may act as a vehicle for excessive milk consumption, which may compromise iron absorption or the intake of iron-rich foods or juices," the researchers wrote.
Courtesy of Maggie Fox, Reuters
Bonnie - this is such an important issue that receives so little attention. Kudos to Maggie for addressing it. Iron is essential for babies neurological growth. Talk to your physician or licensed health professional about how to make sure you are getting enough iron during pregnancy as well as during your baby earliest months of life.