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J Nutr. 2006 Sep;136(9):2405-11.

Iron and zinc supplementation improved iron and zinc status, but not physical growth, of apparently healthy, breast-fed infants in rural communities of northeast Thailand.

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  • 1Institute of Nutrition, Mahidol University, Salaya, Nakhon Pathom 73170, Thailand.


Iron deficiency is prevalent in children and infants worldwide. Zinc deficiency may be prevalent, but data are lacking. Both iron and zinc deficiency negatively affect growth and psychomotor development. Combined iron and zinc supplementation might be beneficial, but the potential interactions need to be verified. In a randomized, placebo-controlled trial using 2 x 2 factorial design, 609 Thai infants aged 4-6 mo were supplemented daily with 10 mg of iron and/or 10 mg of zinc for 6 mo to investigate effects and interactions on micronutrient status and growth. Iron supplementation alone increased hemoglobin and ferritin concentrations more than iron and zinc combined. Anemia prevalence was significantly lower in infants receiving only iron than in infants receiving iron and zinc combined. Baseline iron deficiency was very low, and iron deficiency anemia was almost nil. After supplementation, prevalence of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia were significantly higher in infants receiving placebo and zinc than in those receiving iron or iron and zinc. Serum zinc was higher in infants receiving zinc (16.7 +/- 5.2 micromol/L), iron and zinc (12.1 +/- 3.8 micromol/L) or iron alone (11.5 +/- 2.5 micromol/L) than in the placebo group (9.8 +/- 1.9 micromol/L). Iron and zinc interacted to affect iron and zinc status, but not hemoglobin. Iron supplementation had a small but significant effect on ponderal growth, whereas zinc supplementation did not. To conclude, in Thai infants, iron supplementation improved hemoglobin, iron status, and ponderal growth, whereas zinc supplementation improved zinc status. Overall, for infants, combined iron and zinc supplementation is preferable to iron or zinc supplementation alone.

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