No brain benefit to iron?
Giving impoverished infants iron and zinc supplements to prevent nutritional deficiencies may not have lasting benefits.
The findings suggest that iron and zinc do not boost their IQ, memory or other intellectual abilities at least not when the minerals are given only during infancy.

Iron and zinc are important to normal brain development, and children in developing nations are at risk of deficiencies in both minerals.

Some studies have found that giving these children iron and zinc during infancy can improve their blood levels of the nutrients, and possibly help them reach some developmental milestones sooner, like walking on their own.

But little has been known about whether those supplements have lasting benefits.

In the new study, researchers assessed 560 nine-year-olds who, as infants, had been randomly assigned to have supplements of iron, zinc, both nutrients, or a placebo (a substance that looked like the real supplements but didn't contain any nutrients).

The infants received the supplements or the placebo for 6 months, starting between the ages of 4 and 6 months.

At the age of 9 years, the children were given a variety of standard tests of their IQ, memory, attention and school performance. Overall, the researchers found no differences in the average test scores of children who had received iron, zinc or the placebo.

But the findings do not necessarily mean that iron and zinc supplements offer no brain benefit to children in the developing world.

A recent study of schoolchildren in rural Nepal found that when mothers took iron and folic acid during pregnancy, their kids did better on tests of intelligence and fine motor skills.

Researchers added, there are many short-term reasons to ensure that infants and children in the developing world have enough iron and zinc. There is some evidence, for example, that zinc supplements help prevent or treat diarrhoea, a major killer of children in poor nations.

Iron supplements can also prevent some cases of anaemia, a disorder in which the blood's oxygen-carrying capacity is reduced, causing problems like fatigue, dizziness and breathlessness.

Do you think iron and zinc has any benefits?

Read Parent24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Everything from parties to pre-schools in your area.

Jobs - Find your dream job

Fieldwork Administrator - Wellington WC

Cape Winelands
Agri Technovation
R13 000.00 - R15 000.00 Per Month

Branch Manager

Atlantic Meat
R17 000.00 - R20 000.00 Per Month

Software Developer

Port Elizabeth
S4 Integration (Pty) Ltd

Property - Find a new home