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Food Nutr Bull. 2007 Dec;28(4 Suppl):S585-94.

Iron fortification: its efficacy and safety in relation to infections.

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  • 1ETH Zurich, Institute of Food Science and Nutrition, Zurich, Switzerland.


Iron-fortification programs are efficacious and effective provided recent guidelines are followed: the iron compound is carefully chosen and its level in the food is based on target population requirements, the amount lacking in the diet, and the iron bioavailability of the diet and the compound. For monitoring, serum ferritin and transferrin receptor should be included in addition to hemoglobin. Thus, recent studies of provision of iron-fortified salt to children in Morocco, rice to children in India, wheat flour to women in Thailand, and fish sauce in Vietnam have demonstrated efficacy and effectiveness. All were in nonmalarious areas, and intestinal parasites were uncommon except in India, where the children were dewormed. C-reactive protein was used to eliminate high ferritin values due to infection. An efficacy study of iron-fortified salt in dewormed school-aged children in Côte d'Ivoire, where the prevalence of malaria parasitemia was 55%, found no change in hemoglobin after 6 months, but serum ferritin increased and transferrin receptor decreased significantly, and the increase in body iron and estimated iron absorbed compared favorably with the results of a study of similar design in Morocco, where the prevalence of iron-deficiency anemia decreased from 30% to 5% after 10 months. Hence, iron-fortification programs in malarious areas may not decrease anemia prevalence but will improve iron status and, presumably, iron-dependent health outcomes. Eight studies in nonmalarious areas, all but one in infants receiving iron-fortified formula, have found no evidence of increase in infections and some evidence of a decrease in respiratory infection. There have been no studies in malarious areas.

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