Purpose of review
Iron deficiency early in life is associated with impaired neurological development. This study reviews the latest research on how to best meet iron requirements in infants and children.
There is concurrent evidence that delayed cord clamping is well tolerated and improves infant iron stores. Iron supplements or enriched complementary foods starting before 6 months of life do not reduce iron deficiency prevalence in low-risk populations. However, for low birth weight infants, iron supplements before 6 months of life have long-term benefits. Iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) during the second half year of life is rare in countries with high compliance to iron-rich complementary foods, but remains a major problem globally. In high-risk populations, iron supplementation reduces IDA and possibly improves growth. However, increased risk of infections is a concern and optimal preventive strategies have not yet been determined. Finally, there is concurrent evidence that iron supplementation of anaemic school-aged children reduces IDA and possibly improves neuropsychological outcomes.
Interventions for prevention of iron deficiency should be prioritized in risk groups. However, the unclear long-term benefits and possible risk of adverse effects, particularly increased infections in developing countries, prompt further large-scale, double-blinded trials.