Giving iron supplements to low-birth-weight infants reduces the risk of behavioral problems such as ADHD later in life, according to a study.
In a randomized controlled trial, researchers with Umeá University in Sweden gave 285 marginally LBW infants either 0, 1 or 2 milligrams per kilogram of body weight of iron supplements per day. The regimen lasted from six weeks to six months of age. At age 3 1/2, these infants and 95 who had a normal birth weight were assessed for intelligence and behavior.
The researchers found no significant differences in IQ between the LBW groups and the normal-weight control group. However, for behavioral problems such as ADHD, there was a significant effect from the iron supplements. Of the LBW infants who received no iron supplements, 12.7% showed signs of behavior problems, compared with 2.9% of infants in the 1-mg group and 2.7% in the 2-mg group. In the control group, 3.2% of children showed signs of behavioral problems.
The results demonstrate long-term health benefits of early iron supplementation of otherwise healthy, marginally LBW infants, the researchers concluded.
The study is scheduled for publication in the January issue of Pediatrics. The study abstract is available at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/12/05/peds.2012-0989.abstract.