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Iron-deficient infants score worse on cognitive and motor tests as teens

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Teens who suffered iron deficiency as infants are likely to score lower on cognitive and motor tests, even if that iron deficiency was identified and treated in infancy, a new University of Michigan study shows.

Betsy Lozoff, who has studied iron deficiency for nearly three decades, followed Costa Rican children who were diagnosed with severe, chronic iron deficiency when they were 12-23 months old and were treated with iron supplements.

She and her collaborators examined 191 children in working- to middle-class families at 5 years, 11-14 years and again at 15-17, and found the iron-deficient babies grew up to lag their peers in both motor and mental measures.

Lozoff is scheduled to present "Longitudinal Analysis of Cognitive and Motor Effects of Iron Deficiency in Infancy" at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in San Francisco May 3. It is one of six research projects Lozoff participated in that are scheduled for presentations at the meeting, which runs May 1-4.

Children who had good iron status as babies showed better motor skills than those who had been iron deficient, said Lozoff, director of the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan and a professor in the U-M Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases. That gap remained throughout childhood and adolescence. "There is no evidence of catch up."

But even worse were the cognitive measures: children who had previously suffered iron deficiency not only lagged behind their peers, but the difference actually increased over time. They scored about six points lower on cognitive tests at age 1-2 years, and 11 points lower at age 15-18 years.

The gap was even more pronounced for children of families with low socioeconomic status, lower stimulation in the home or mothers lower in IQ. For children with good iron status, family conditions did not seem to affect their cognitive test scores. For formerly iro
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Contact: Colleen Newvine
cnewvine@umich.edu
734-647-4411
University of Michigan
4-May-2004


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