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Iron Deficiency Anemia Affects Infants’ Cognitive Function

Last Updated: July 27, 2010.

Iron deficiency anemia in infancy appears to affect areas of cognitive function, and these effects seem to be stronger in infants with socioemotional deficits, according to research published online July 26 in Pediatrics.

TUESDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) in infancy appears to affect areas of cognitive function, and these effects seem to be stronger in infants with socioemotional deficits, according to research published online July 26 in Pediatrics.

R. Colin Carter, M.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues tested 28 infants with IDA, 28 with nonanemic iron deficiency, and 21 with iron sufficiency at 9 and 12 months by administering the Fagan Test of Infant Intelligence (FTII); A-not-B task; Behavior Rating Scale; and the Emotionality, Activity, and Sociability Temperament Survey to determine the effect of IDA on cognitive functioning in infants and how IDA-related socioemotional deficits mediate and/or moderate these effects.

The researchers found that 64.3 percent of infants with IDA exhibited object permanence at 9 to 10 months, compared with 87.8 percent of infants without anemia. Those with IDA and hemoglobin at or below 105 g/L had poorer recognition memory on the FTII than infants who did not have IDA. Infants who scored more unfavorably on socioemotional measures tended to display stronger effects of IDA on those outcomes.

"These data indicate poorer object permanence and short-term memory encoding and/or retrieval in infants with IDA at 9 months. These cognitive effects were attributable, in part, to IDA-related deficits in socioemotional function. Children with poor socioemotional performance seem to be more vulnerable to the effects of IDA on cognitive function," the authors write.

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