Iron deficiency anemia is a common health disorder. Almost 20 per cent women and 3 per cent men suffer from iron deficiency. The risk of developing iron deficiency anemia is greater among women of childbearing age. One in two pregnant women does not have adequate iron to restore the normal blood hemoglobin level. Iron deficiency in pregnant and lactating women increases the risk of iron deficiency anemia in infants.
Anemia and poor memory development
In a study, reported in the journal Pediatrics, researchers have found that, iron deficiency anemia in infants hinders neurophysiological development. Researchers studied the affect of iron deficiency anemia on memory development of infants aged nine and twelve months. They found that nine-month-old infants without iron deficiency anemia could easily discriminate their mother’s face from faces of strangers. However, infants with iron deficiency anemia could not display similar response until 12 months of age.
Researchers believe that poor cognitive development in babies leads to cognitive problems in later life. However, the association between memory development and iron deficiency anemia is unclear. Health experts speculate that iron is essential for the production of certain enzymes and hemoproteins that regulate the activities of the central nervous system.
Risk of anemia is infants
While weaning your child, if you fail to give the baby adequate iron rich food, iron deficiency might develop. Risk of iron deficiency is greater among infants fed on formula milk. Iron present in breast milk could be absorbed easily than iron in formula milk. Cow milk increases the risk of iron deficiency anemia is babies. Cow milk contains small amount of iron.
It irritates the intestinal lining of babies with lactose intolerance, which slows down iron absorption. Compared with full term infants, premature infants have a greater risk of developing iron deficiency anemia. The iron reserve built in the body of the full term infant in the last month of pregnancy could last for up to six months after birth.
How to prevent anemia in infants
Adequate iron intake during pregnancy and lactation prevents iron deficiency in infants. Do not give your baby cow’s milk before the child’s first birthday. Once your baby starts eating solid food, give the child iron-fortified cereals, leafy green vegetables, legumes, poultry, lean meat, fish and egg yolk.