Intended for healthcare professionals



BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 04 September 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:650

Adding iron to formula milk can prevent iron deficiency in babies but doesn't boost their growth or development (Archives of Diseases in Childhood 1999;81:247-52). Nine month old babies given formula milk fortified with iron did no better over nine months than children fed pasteurised cows' milk in a randomised trial, although they had higher plasma ferritin concentrations. Anaemic toddlers may still benefit from iron supplements in their milk, however, so bigger trials in more mixed populations should be done to find out, say the authors.

Supplements, or fortifiers, can also be added to human milk to improve its nutritional value to low birthweight infants. Unfortunately, commonly used fortifiers increase the milk's osmolality, a European team of researchers has found (Archives of Diseases in Childhood Fetal and Neonatal Edition 1999;81:F141-3). Clinically important increases in osmolality occur within minutes and continue for at least 24 hours, probably because amylases in breast milk break down polysaccharides in the supplement.

Elderly patients wanting to know if they are fit to drive may not get the right answer from a doctor (Postgraduate Medical Journal 1999;75:537-9). In a survey of 50 doctors attached to one geriatric unit in Northern Ireland, most …

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