Low birth-weight babies benefit from long-term iron supplements

Early iron intervention found to lower levels of aggression and rule-breaking behavior in children age 7.
By Amy Wallace  |  Sept. 27, 2017 at 4:21 PM
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Sept. 27 (UPI) -- A recent study from Umea University in Sweden found that low birth-weight babies at risk of iron deficiency can benefit greatly from iron supplements.

Low birth-weight babies, weighing under 5.5 pounds, are at an increased risk of iron deficiency leading to impaired neurological development. Low birth-weight babies represent a large proportion of all births with up to 5 percent of infants born in high income countries, and 15 percent in low income countries are classified as low birth weight.

The study, published today in Pediatric Research, is part of ongoing research in Sweden involving 285 late preterm and term infants who weighed between 4.4 and 5.5 pounds at birth and were defined as being low birth weight.

Researchers tested 207 of the original participants in the study at the age of 7. The group was divided into two groups, those who were given iron supplements and those who were not.

The study showed no major differences between the two groups regarding intelligence scores of children at age 7. However, the group given iron supplements showed lower levels of aggressive and rule-breaking behavior at age 7 and did not have as many thought problems.

"Our findings suggest that iron supplementation may have long-lasting effects on behavioural functions in children born of a low birth weight," Staffan Berglund of Umea University, said in a press release. "This clinically important benefit from early iron supplementation gives further support to recommend iron supplementation of all low birth weight children, including those with marginally low birth weight."

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