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Iron supplementation in early childhood: health benefits and risks

There are approximately 2 billion people affected by iron deficiency worldwide. Iron is needed for many biological functions that promote human health. There are many ways in which iron may also harm the body such as through oxidative stress, interfering with the absorption or break down of other nutrients, and suppressing important enzymatic activity.

The current review was conducted to test the positive and negative health effects preventive iron supplementation has on children under the age of five in developing countries. The following outcomes were monitored: anemia, growth, development, morbidity and mortality. Of the many cases studied 26 were assessed for this review. For the anemic and iron deficient children, hemoglobin concentrations and iron status indicators had increased or improved. The results on height were inconclusive, but there was a negative effect on weight. In development, cognitive and motor skills of preschool aged children seemed to develop quicker and not deteriorate, especially with lower doses over an extended period. The effects on morbidity and mortality were inconclusive because the amount of data was insufficient.

Iron deficiency is a serious problem affecting many throughout the world but testing for this problem requires a lot of money and man power that is not fully available. More testing is needed particularly in areas that have a high concentration of disease (AIDS, malaria, tuburculosis).

Lora L Iannotti, James M Tielsch, Maureen M Black and Robert E Black pg. 1261-1276
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