A Substantial Proportion of 6- to 12-Month-Old Infants have Calculated Daily Absorbed Iron below Recommendations

The bioavailability of iron from different dietary iron sources varies.

The goal of a study was to calculate the amount of bioavailable iron consumed among 6- to 12- month-old infants and to compare this with current recommended intakes.

The present study utilized the Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study database of dietary intakes from the year 2016, as well as the estimated bioavailability of dietary iron sources, to estimate the proportion of infants with calculated total daily absorbed iron below their physiologic requirements. The physiologic requirements were deemed same as the recommended amount needed to fully support growth and erythropoiesis.

The calculated daily iron absorption was found to be below the recommended amount in 54.3% of infants evaluated. Low daily iron absorption was reported in 19.5% of the 448 exclusively formula-fed infants; in 95.8% of the 296 exclusively breastfed infants; and 72.2% of the 102 mixed-fed infants. 

The mean iron absorption of 6- to 9- month-old breastfed infants was 0.27 mg/day – which was much lower than the estimated physiologic requirement of 0.69 mg/day. The most highly bioavailable iron – heme iron, was <12% of the contributor to total iron absorbed in breastfed infants.

The findings suggest a need for public awareness to support increased iron intake in 6- to 12- month-old infants, especially in those receiving any breast milk. Exclusively formula-fed infants are at lower risk of iron deficiency; however, the findings indicate that all infants require monitoring for iron deficiency. Strategies for increasing the proportion of heme iron from animal products should be implemented where feasible.

Source: The Journal of Pediatrics. 2021 Apr;231:36-42.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2020.10.071.

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