Time is of the essence: Hit iron deficiency before it becomes chronic, warn researchers

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Iron deficiency Pediatrics

Beating iron deficiency in infancy before it reaches a chronic stage is vital to avoid later problems with social functioning and education, according to a new 25 year study of iron deficiency.

The research, published in The Journal of Pediatrics​, researchers report on a 25-year follow-up of infants studied in Costa Rica for iron deficiency – finding that those with chronic iron deficiency in infancy had poorer adult functions “in all domains except for physical health and employment.”

Led by Dr Betsy Lozoff from the University of Michigan, the international research team compared data from infants with chronic, severe iron deficiency with those who were iron-sufficient before and/or after iron therapy.

Compared with individuals who had been iron-sufficient in infancy, adults who had chronic iron deficiency as infants were less likely to complete secondary school or pursue further training and more likely to be single, experience negative emotions, and feel detached or dissociated,”​ the authors revealed.

“If replicated in larger samples, these adverse outcomes represent a substantial loss of human potential that is sad for the individual and detrimental for society,”​ they said.

According to Lozoff, the study findings suggest “that poor long-term outcome, at least for overall functioning, may be prevented if iron treatment is given before iron deficiency becomes chronic and severe."

“Our findings may help guide practice and policy to prevent or treat iron deficiency before it becomes chronic or severe,”​ the authors added.

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