A recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition reports that iron-fortified foods are needed to meet iron requirements in Australian infants aged 6 to 12 months, especially those that are breastfed.
Iron deficiency, which can lead to iron deficiency anemia, is the most common diet-related nutritional deficiency among children 2 years of age and younger. Even with the absence of anemia, iron deficiency can impact behavioral, cognitive, and psychomotor skill development. Full-term infants are born with sufficient iron reserves, which last approximately the first 6 months of life. Once iron stores are depleted, breastmilk alone is not sufficient to meet iron requirements of older infants. As an alternative to iron supplements, mandated iron-fortified infant cereals between 20- and 50-mg iron per 100 g dry weight can augment human milk by providing necessary amounts of iron.
The aim of this study, conducted by Tim Green (South Australia Health and Medical Research Institute, Adelaide South Australia) and colleagues was to model the impact of infant cereals at a range of iron fortification intakes and to assess the prevalence of iron inadequacy according to feeding type. Dietary intake data of infants between the ages of 6 – 12 months participating in the 2021 Australian Feeding Infants and Toddlers study were utilized for this study.
Data showed breastfed and combination-fed infants to have a lower median intake and a higher prevalence of inadequacy for iron compared with formula-fed infants. Dietary modeling with iron-fortified infant cereal increased median iron intakes from 4.3 to 9.8 mg per day and reduced the prevalence of inadequacy from 75% to 5% for all infants. The effect was even more pronounced in breastfed and combination-fed infants, with median iron intakes increasing from 2.9 to 8.8 mg per day and the prevalence of inadequacy decreasing from 92% to 6%.
Meeting iron requirements is challenging in late infancy, especially for breastfed infants because breast milk contains less iron than infant formula. This modeling study shows that adding iron-fortified infant cereal at a rate of 35 mg per 100 grams dry weight to infant diets would be an effective means to reduce the prevalence of inadequacy for iron.
Moumin NA, Grieger JA, Netting MJ, Makrides M, Green TJ. Iron-Fortified Foods Are Needed To Meet the Estimated Average Requirement for Iron in Australian Infants Aged 6 to 12 Months. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 153, Issue 10, October 2023, Pages 3101-3109, doi.org/10.1016/j.tjnut.2023.08.018.
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