Iron Supplementation Helps Low-Birth-Weight Babies

According to scientists from Umea University, the largest in northern Scandinavia, supplemental iron could boost brain development and help prevent behavioral problems in babies who are a little undersized at birth.

Researchers in Sweden believe they have found a way to help low birth weight  newborns: iron supplementation.
According to scientists from Umea  University, the largest in northern Scandinavia, supplemental iron could  boost brain development and help prevent behavioral problems in babies who are a  little undersized at birth.
Low birth-weight (LBW) babies can be more  likely to wind up iron deficient, said the researchers, so they need more of the  nutrient to catch up in growth. In addition, they said, LBW babies haven't  stored as much iron as other babies not born prematurely.
For these  reasons, very early-term and small babies are often placed on supplemental iron.  But not as much research has focused on newborns that are just under normal  weight to see if they, too, were at risk.
"I think this further  solidifies the evidence that it's a very good idea to give these (marginally low  birth-weight) children iron supplements," said Dr. Magnus Domellof, who worked  on the study.
Decrease in ADHD seen
The research was led by  Dr. Staffan Berglund, Domellof's colleague. Their team followed 285 infants born  between four pounds, seven ounces and five pounds, eight ounces. The results of  the study, titled "Effects of Iron Supplementation on LBW Infants on Cognition  and Behavior at 3 Years," were published in the January 2013 issue of the  journal Pediatrics.
Researchers randomly assigned the tracked  infants to get iron drops - either one or two milligrams per kilogram of body weight - or iron-free placebo  drops each day between the ages of six weeks and six months.
"At age  three-and-a-half, these infants and 95 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," says a press  release from the university.
"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 release  said.
'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure'
The  study concluded:
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 study suggests a causal relation between infant iron  deficiency and later behavioral problems.
Researchers said they are  continuing to follow the group of children as they grow, "to see if new  cognitive or behavioral problems develop or old ones get better as the children  head into grade school," Reuters reported.
Domellof said he and  fellow researchers did not see any additional gastrointestinal problems in  children or delayed growth that could be tied to the use of iron drops. In the  past, some research has suggested that giving too much iron to young kids who  aren't deficient could actually stunt their development.
Still, "I would  not be afraid of recommending this to all children (born) below 2,500 grams  (five pounds, eight ounces) at this dose," Domellof told Reuters  Health.
"Here's where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of  cure," Dr. Michael Georgieff, a child development researcher at the  University of Minnesota in Minneapolis who reviewed the study as part of  Berglund's dissertation committee, told the newswire. He said that it is  important for all parents to know what their baby's iron requirements are when  they leave the hospital after birth.
"The issue with these marginally low  birth-weight infants is, people really haven't paid a lot of attention to them,  but the evidence is accumulating that they are at risk for behavioral problems  and less than ideal cognitive function," added Dr. Betsy Lozoff, who studies the  effects of iron deficiency in infants at the University of Michigan in  Ann Arbor.

Copyright: arcticle: Natural New