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Iron May Curb Behavioral Issues for LBW Infants

Last Updated: December 10, 2012.

Early iron supplementation in low birth weight infants is not associated with cognitive function at age 3.5 years, but correlates with a reduction in the prevalence of behavioral problems, according to a study published online Dec. 10 in Pediatrics.

MONDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Early iron supplementation in low birth weight (LBW) infants is not associated with cognitive function at age 3.5 years, but correlates with a reduction in the prevalence of behavioral problems, according to a study published online Dec. 10 in Pediatrics.

Staffan K. Berglund, M.D., Ph.D., from Umeå University in Sweden, and colleagues randomized 285 marginally LBW (2,000 to 2,500 g) infants to receive 0, 1, or 2 mg/kg/day of iron supplements. Infants were treated from 6 weeks to 6 months of age and were assessed at 3.5 years with the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Results were compared to those of 95 normal birth weight controls.

With respect to IQ, the researchers found that there were no significant differences between the LBW groups, or when comparing LBW infants and controls. Iron supplementation did have a significant effect on behavioral problems, with the prevalence of children with behavioral problems (CBCL scores above the U.S. subclinical cut-off) 12.7 percent in the placebo group, 2.9 percent in the 1-mg group, and 2.7 percent in the 2-mg groups, compared with 3.2 percent in controls. In placebo-treated children versus supplemented infants the relative risk for CBCL score above cut-off was 4.5.

"Early iron supplementation of marginally LBW infants does not affect cognitive functions at 3.5 years of age but significantly reduces the prevalence of behavioral problems," the authors write. "Because marginally LBW is a relatively common condition, a reduction in behavioral problems is likely to have significant public health benefits."

The iron drops used in the study were provided by Astra Zeneca.

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