European scientists at UmeŚ University (Sweden) say that giving iron supplements to low birth weight infants reduces the risk of behavioral problems like ADHD later in life. The new work builds on other findings linking iron deficiency to a range of cognitive deficits.
The study, Effects of Iron Supplementation on LBW Infants on Cognition and Behavior at 3 Years, is published in the January 2013 issue, released online Dec. 10, 2012.
For the trial, the researchers gave 285 marginally low birth weight infants 0, 1 or 2 mg/kg per day of iron supplements from 6 weeks to 6 months of age. At age three-and-a-half, these infants and 95 who had a normal birth weight were assessed for behavioural issues.
The researchers found that there were no significant differences in IQ between the low birth weight groups and the normal-weight control group. However, for behavioral problems like ADHD, there was a significant effect from the iron supplements.
Of the low birth weight infants who received no iron supplements, 13 percent showed signs of behavioral problems, compared to 3 percent of infants in the 1-mg group and 2.7 percent of the 2-mg group. In the control group, 3 percent of children showed signs of behavioral problems.
The authors of the study, published in Pediatrics, conclude that the results demonstrate the long-term health benefits of early iron supplementation for marginally low birth weight infants.
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Source: UmeŚ University