A study in Pediatrics found giving iron supplements to low birth weight infants reduces the risk of behavior problems later in life.
The study, “Effects of Iron Supplementation on LBW Infants on Cognition and Behavior at 3 Years,” is published in the January 2013 issue and released online Dec. 10, 2012.
In the randomized controlled trial, researchers in Sweden gave 285 marginally low birth weight infants either 0, 1 or 2 mg/kg/day of iron supplements from 6 weeks to 6 months of age. At age 3 and a half, these infants and 95 infants who had a normal birth weight were assessed for intelligence and behavior. There were no significant differences in IQ between the low birth weight groups and the normal-weight control group. However, for behavioral problems, there was a significant effect from the iron supplements. Of the low birth weight infants who received no iron supplements, 12.7 percent showed signs of behavior problems, compared to 2.9 percent of infants in the 1-mg group and 2.7 percent of the 2-mg group. In the control group, 3.2 percent of children showed signs of behavioral problems.
Study authors conclude the results demonstrate long-term health benefits of early iron supplementation of otherwise healthy, marginally low birth weight infants.