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.
Recent findings: 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.
Summary: 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.