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Iron supplements may benefit the behavioral development of newborns with low birth weight

Category: General Wellness

Recent research conducted by Staffan Berglund, M.D., Ph.D., has found that giving iron supplements to smaller than usual babies may help prevent behavioral problems, reported Reuters.

The study, which was published online in the journal Pediatrics, looked at 285 infants who had a birth weights that were between 4 pounds, 7 ounces and 5 pounds, 8 ounces. At 6 months old, the subjects were either given iron supplement drops or issued a placebo.

When the subjects were 3 years old, they were given an IQ test and their parents were questioned about their children's behavior. The test subjects were also compared with 95 children who had normal birth weights. While the iron drops did not seem to have any effect on the IQ of the patients, the researchers found that the babies who were issued the placebo drops had higher rates of behavioral problems, such as reaction control, anxiety and depression.

Presently, the researchers continue to monitor the subjects to see if any cognitive issues arise. Reuters noted that previous research has indicated that iron may stunt a child's growth, but one of the study authors, Magnus Domellof, M.D., noted that he would not have any problem giving a child born under 5 pounds, 8 ounces the same dose of iron drops that the subjects were issued.

"The issue with these marginally low birth weight infants is, people really haven't paid a lot of attention to them, but the evidence is accumulating that they are at risk for behavioral problems and less than ideal cognitive function," Betsy Lozoff, M.D., who studies iron deficiency in newborns at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, told the news source.

Iron deficiency effects
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, iron comprises enzymes in our food, which are conducive for digestion and other bodily functions. When humans have an iron deficiency, which can be detected with a blood test, it can impair motor function in infants as well as cognitive function. Iron deficiency during the prenatal period may also be linked to babies being born small or early. In adults, being deficient of iron can result in fatigue, which can hamper physical movement. Iron deficiency can also delay cognitive functioning and the memory process.

Some at-risk groups for iron deficiency include young children, pregnant women and adolescent girls. This deficiency in children is usually apparent in children who are between 6 months and 3 years old. Treatment for the condition may include iron supplements or a diet that contains more iron-rich foods.

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