Nutrition Publication

Annales 75.3 - Meeting the Iron Needs of Young Children

Editor(s): A. M. Prentice,. / 75.3

Iron is a key nutrient throughout the human lifespan, with particularly importance in the first two years of life.  At this time, iron plays a major role in the production of new red blood cells and muscle cells as well as contributing to brain development.  Iron deficiency anemia can drastically affect motor and cognitive performance in the growing child, with low birth weight infants at particularly high risk.  
Recent breakthroughs in molecular biology have demonstrated in detail how iron is absorbed, transported and utilized in the human body via the liver-derived hormone hepcidin. Recent discovery of hepidecin has shed new light on several of the previously intractable puzzles regarding iron metabolism and nutrition.

This issue of Annales Nestlé explores the latest research in the field and explains in detail the challenges and opportunities for meeting the iron needs of infants and children.

Related Articles

Clinical Implications of New Insights into Hepcidin-Mediated Regulation of Iron Absorption and Metabolism

Author(s): A. M. Prentice

Within the past 20 years, major advances in molecular biology methods have demonstrated in detail how iron is absorbed, transported and utilized in the human body.  Of particular importance has been the discovery of the liver-derived hormone hepcidin, which is now known to be the master regulator of iron, including switching down iron absorption to protect the body against infection.  These new insights suggest that interventions to reduce infection and inflammation will be at least as effective as dietary interventions and that the two approaches are interdependent.

Iron and Cognitive Development: What is the Evidence?

Author(s): L. M. Larson et al.

Despite many years of research, there is a lack of conclusive evidence to guide strategies for treating iron deficiency in pregnancy, infants and children, even though anemia is known to have far-reaching consequences including impaired cognitive development.   Recent evidence synthesis has drawn attention to the limitations of our understanding of the topic.  High quality, dedicated, placebo-controlled trials of the effects of universal iron interventions on cognitive performance in children are urgently needed.  

Meeting the Iron Needs of Low and Very Low Birth Weight Infants

Author(s): M. Domellöf

Low birth weight infants are at high risk of iron deficiency, as iron stores have not fully built up before birth, and their rapid growth swiftly depletes already low iron levels.  Blood loss and blood transfusions during their time in intensive care will also impact iron status.  In order to avoid poor health outcomes, practitioners recommend that these vulnerable infants should experience delayed umbilical cord clamping and receive iron supplementation.

Iron Nutriture of the Fetus, Neonate, Infant, and Child

Author(s): C. Cerami

Iron is a key nutrient throughout human life, with particularly importance in the early stages due to its role in the production of new red blood and muscle cells as well as brain development.  Before birth, iron needs are met through maternal iron transfer, and after birth, through dietary sources. Iron deficiency is the most common micronutrient deficiency in children and pregnant women worldwide (approximately 43%). Although a child with iron deficiency will continue to growth, depletion of tissue iron stores will cause specific clinical symptoms.