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BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 02 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i3129

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Long-term irreversible consequences of iron deficiency

Iron deficiency in infancy, with or without anaemia, is associated with impaired mental and psychomotor development [4][5][8][10][11][12][13][15][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][28][30], which persist despite long-term iron therapy [12][17][19][20][21][22][24][25][26][30][31], even up to 19 years of age [15][21][25].

Ferritin and circulating RBC volume measure hematologic effects in infants better than blood Hct. [1][6]

Low ferritin in infancy is associated with altered auditory recognition memory [3], diminished performance in mental and psychomotor tests at 5 years of age [2], alterations in visual attention and concept acquisition [7].

Iron deficiency in infancy has been associated to asthma [9], long term sleep alterations [14][19][26], slower eye-blinking rates [16], impaired upper-extremity motor functions [17], schizophrenia in adulthood [21], impaired social-emotional behaviour [23], long term altered prolactin responses [27], impaired auditory and visual responses [31].

Iron deficiency is very common, even in children from developed Countries. [4][5][8].

Delayed umbilical cord-clamping can reduce iron deficiency anaemia in term infants, even in industrialized Countries, and prevent all these long-term irreversible consequences [29].

We can expect many more benefits from prenatal iron use, apart from birth weight.


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Competing interests: No competing interests

15 August 2016
Stavros Saripanidis
Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Thessaloniki, Greece