Iron is vital for the development
of brain. It also plays an important role in the formation of Red Blood Cells
(RBC), which carry oxygen to body tissues. Newborn babies receive their iron
stores while in the mother's womb, which means the mother's diet plays an
important role during pregnancy. Low birth weight or premature babies are at
increased risk of iron deficiency.
When you think of a child with
iron deficiency, the first thing that comes to your mind is a pale, weak child
who gets tired easily, but you rarely think of a child who is hyperactive or
has ADHD. A new study conducted in low birth weight babies now shows a link
between low iron levels and possible behavioral problems such as ADHD.
This study published in the Pediatrics
journal, entitled "Effects
of Iron Supplementation on LBW Infants on Cognition and Behavior at 3 Years"
was conducted by the scientists at Umeå University in Sweden. The study was
released online on Dec 10, 2012. Researchers found that giving iron supplements
to low birth weight babies may deter behavioral problems and lower the risk of
ADHD later in life.
The study was a randomized controlled trial,
wherein researchers compared 285 marginally low birth weight infants, defined
as weighing between 2,000 and 2,500 grams or about 4.4 to 5.5 pounds with 95
infants who had normal birth weight. Researchers randomly administered the low
birth weight babies with 0, 1, or 2mg/kg of iron supplement a day from six
weeks of age to six months of age.
At age three-and-a-half, these infants were
assessed for intelligence and behavior. The intelligence test was the primary
outcome and the behavioral assessment was the secondary outcome. It was found
that there were no significant differences in IQ between the low birth weight
groups and the normal-weight control group. Hence it was concluded that the
iron supplements did not show an effect when it dealt with intelligence.
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, 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.
The researchers wrote "These
results not only suggest that the increased risk of behavioral problems in
children with low birth weight may be partially prevented but also lend support
to a causal relationship between preventive iron supplementation and improved
neurobehavioral development in infants at risk for iron deficiency."
The scientists also thought that
additional randomized trials, exploring the effects of iron supplements in
other settings and in larger populations were needed.
1. Iron Supplements Reduce ADHD in Low Birth Weight Infants, Insciences
2. Iron may give small
Babies Behavioral Boost, Medpage Today