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J Nutr. 2004 May;134(5):1064-70.

Dietary iron intake is positively associated with hemoglobin concentration during infancy but not during the second year of life.

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Department of Clinical Sciences, Pediatrics, Umeå University, Umea, Sweden.


Iron status during infancy and early childhood reflects highly dynamic processes, which are affected by both internal and external factors. The regulation of iron metabolism seems to be subjected to developmental changes during infancy, although the exact nature of these changes and their implications are not fully understood. We wanted to explore the association between dietary iron intake and indicators of iron status, and to assess temporal changes in these variables. This was done by secondary analysis of data from a recently conducted dietary intervention trial in which healthy, term, well-nourished infants were randomly assigned to consume iron-fortified infant cereals with regular or low phytate content, or iron-fortified infant formula. Dietary iron intake from 6 to 8 mo and from 9 to 11 mo was associated with hemoglobin (Hb) concentration at 9 mo (r = 0.27, P < 0.001) and 12 mo (r = 0.21, P = 0.001), respectively, but iron intake from 12 to 18 mo was not associated with Hb at 18 mo. In contrast, iron intake from 6 to 11 mo was not associated with serum ferritin (S-Ft) at 9 or 12 mo, whereas iron intake from 12 to 17 mo was positively associated with S-Ft at 18 mo (r = 0.14, P = 0.032). These shifts in associations between dietary iron intake, and Hb and S-Ft, respectively, may be due to developmental changes in the channeling of dietary iron to erythropoiesis relative to storage, in the absence of iron deficiency anemia. These observations should be taken into consideration when evaluating iron nutritional status during infancy and early childhood.

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