Iron Deficiency Can Have Long Term Negative Effects

ironMany studies over the past decades have shown that iron deficiency is bad for brain development and educational success.  The study shown here…  in the Journal of Peds 2013 “Functional significance of early-life iron deficiency: outcomes at 25 years” adds significant long term follow-up data.  

  • At 25 years, 33 subjects had chronic iron deficiency in infancy and 89 were iron sufficient before and/or after iron therapy.
  • 58% of the iron deficient infants did not complete high school compared with 20% for those with adequate iron.
  • 76% of the iron deficient group was not pursuing further education vs 31.5% for the iron adequate group.
  • 84% of the iron deficient group was single vs 24% of the iron adequate group.
  • The iron deficient group reported poorer emotional health and feeling detached/dissociated at age 25.


Clearly, it is important that we anticipate and treat iron deficiency in infancy.  We normally screen at 9 months age, and a very high percentage of infants are low or borderline anemic.  Whenever we order iron studies it is almost universal that infants have very low ferritin levels, suggesting low body stores of iron. Infants with long-term exclusive breastfeeding and vegetarian life-style (both which are healthy and I support), do tend to suffer from greater anemia and lower body iron stores. 

Parents, consider an iron supplement at 3 mg/Kg per day of elemental iron during infancy, and don’t miss getting your baby tested at 9 months or sooner if you have reason to be concerned. Anemic babies may look pale though this is not a reliable sign for mild anemia. 



Dr. Paul




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