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Study Reports Anemic Children Benefit from Iron Supplementation

Update Date: Oct 16, 2013 02:19 PM EDT

In a new study, researchers are reporting that anemic children could benefit greatly from iron supplementation. Anemia is a health condition in which one's blood does not have enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin. In order to prevent symptoms, such as fatigue, patients with the most common type of anemia, iron-deficiency anemia, are often recommended to eat a diet high in iron. This study found that iron could be essential in providing cognitive and physical benefits for young children.

For this study, the research team from Australia reviewed the results of 32 studies. From these studies, there were 7,089 children in total who were mainly from low- and middle-income countries. The researchers found that in nine studies with a total of 2,355 children, children who were taking iron supplements scored higher on tests that measured cognitive abilities. The researchers also found that these children had better IQ (intelligence quotient) scores. In terms of physical appearance, children who took iron supplements were slightly taller than the average height for their age. Their weight-for-age was also better than children who did not take any iron supplements.

"We found evidence of a benefit of iron supplementation on cognitive performance among primary-school-aged children, including on IQ among children with anemia," wrote Dr. Sant-Rayn Pasricha, The Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, The University of Melbourne. "Iron may also improve growth. Daily iron supplementation decreased the prevalence of anemia by about 50% and reduced the prevalence of iron deficiency by 79%."

According to the background information in the study, nearly a quarter of the world's school-aged children suffer from anemia. Half of this group of children is iron deficient. Since the researchers did not find any adverse effects of taking iron supplements, promoting these supplements could only help iron-deficient anemic children.

"Iron supplementation benefits global cognitive performance. ... Routine daily iron supplementation is likely to benefit cognitive performance in primary school children in developing settings where anemia is prevalent and testing hemoglobin before iron supplementation may not be feasible," the authors concluded.

The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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