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Iron-Deficient Infants Have Persistent Cognitive Deficit

Study also finds widening cognitive gaps in iron-deficient children from poor families

MONDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Infants who are iron deficient have lower cognitive test scores than those with sufficient iron levels, and the gap persists into the teenage years, especially for children at lower socioeconomic levels, according to a report published in the November issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Betsy Lozoff, M.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues screened 185 Costa Rican children (age 12 month to 23 months) for iron deficiency in 1983-1985, and administered cognitive tests. The researchers gave additional cognitive tests when the children were aged 5, 11-14, 15-18 and 19 years.

In middle-class families, the researchers found that the gap in cognitive scores between iron-deficient infants and those with sufficient levels was consistently eight to nine points through age 19. In lower socioeconomic families, however, they found that the gap widened from 10 points in infancy to 25 points at age 19.

"Such a difference is likely to be functionally significant regarding educational attainment and career choices in adulthood," the authors write. "The analysis also suggested a protective effect of good iron status in infancy in low- socioeconomic status families. In light of potential adverse effects at the level of the individual and the society in settings where iron deficiency is widespread, it seems reasonable to prevent iron deficiency in infancy and treat it before it becomes chronic or severe."

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