Small babies need iron supplements, say Swedish researchers

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Iron deficiency anemia

Recommendations should change so that babies born with marginally low birth weight received iron supplements, suggests new research from Sweden.

Marginally low birth weight babies who received iron supplements up to the age of 6 months did not develop iron deficiency or anaemia, according to findings published in the journal Pediatrics​.

Researchers from Umea University and Karolinska Institute report that their findings will hopefully lead to a change in nutrition recommendations – most children with marginally low birth weights in Sweden are considered healthy and are not given iron drops, they said. The study indicates that these children should be given iron drops, to reduce the risk of developing iron deficiency and anaemia.

According to data from the researchers, about 3.5 per cent of newborns have low birth weights, defined as a body weight less than 2.5 kg, and of these the majority had only marginally low birth weights, defined as between 2 and 2.5 kg.

Study details

Led by Umea’s Magnus Domellof, the researcher recruited 285 healthy babies born with a marginally low birth weight and randomly assigned them to receive one of three doses of iron: 0, 1 or 2 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day. The infants received the drops from six weeks of age until six months.

At the end of the intervention, Dr Domellof and his co-workers found that 36 per cent of the children in the placebo group were iron deficient, while 10 per cent were anaemic. On the other hand, only four per cent of the children in the 2mg/kg group were iron deficient, and there was no anaemia in these children.

Interestingly, children who were fully breast-fed had the greatest risk of developing iron deficiency, said the researchers.

No negative effects of the iron drops were reported by the researchers.

The effects of iron deficiency will form the next stage of the research as the Swedish scientists follow the children up to the age of 7 years and test their intellectual development, the occurrence of behavioral problems, and attention problems.

Source: Pedaitrics
Volume 126, Number 4, doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3624
“Iron Supplements Reduce the Risk of Iron Deficiency Anemia in Marginally Low Birth Weight Infants”
Authors: S. Berglund, B. Westrup, M. Domellof

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