Iron Requirements of Infants and Toddlers

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Abstract

Iron deficiency (ID) is the most common micronutrient deficiency worldwide and young children are a special risk group because their rapid growth leads to high iron requirements. Risk factors associated with a higher prevalence of ID anemia (IDA) include low birth weight, high cow's-milk intake, low intake of iron-rich complementary foods, low socioeconomic status, and immigrant status. The aim of this position paper was to review the field and provide recommendations regarding iron requirements in infants and toddlers, including those of moderately or marginally low birth weight. There is no evidence that iron supplementation of pregnant women improves iron status in their offspring in a European setting. Delayed cord clamping reduces the risk of ID. There is insufficient evidence to support general iron supplementation of healthy European infants and toddlers of normal birth weight. Formula-fed infants up to 6 months of age should receive iron-fortified infant formula, with an iron content of 4 to 8 mg/L (0.6–1.2 mg · kg−1 · day−1). Marginally low-birth-weight infants (2000–2500 g) should receive iron supplements of 1–2 mg · kg−1 · day−1. Follow-on formulas should be iron-fortified; however, there is not enough evidence to determine the optimal iron concentration in follow-on formula. From the age of 6 months, all infants and toddlers should receive iron-rich (complementary) foods, including meat products and/or iron-fortified foods. Unmodified cow's milk should not be fed as the main milk drink to infants before the age of 12 months and intake should be limited to <500 mL/day in toddlers. It is important to ensure that this dietary advice reaches high-risk groups such as socioeconomically disadvantaged families and immigrant families.

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