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Iron deficiency

Obese Children Often Suffer From Iron Deficiency, Causing Behavioral Problems

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: iron deficiency, obese children, behavioral problems


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(NewsTarget) Overweight toddlers are nearly three times as likely to suffer from iron deficiency compared to those of healthy weight, according to the results of a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers examined health data from the 1999-2002 National Health and Examination Survey on 960 children in the United States between the ages of 1 and 3. Each participating child had undergone three separate blood tests for iron deficiency. The survey was conducted by a division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Twenty percent of overweight toddlers tested positive for iron deficiency, in comparison with only 7 percent of the children of normal weight.

Scientists uncovered other factors that were also linked to iron deficiency. Children attending day care or preschool were 50 percent less likely to suffer iron deficiency than children who were not enrolled in such problems. Iron deficiency was higher among Hispanic children, at 12 percent, compared with only 6 percent among black or white children.

As with all studies of correlation, the causes for the iron deficiency could not be determined from this study. Researchers speculated that poor diets may lead to both obesity and iron deficiency. In particular, said co-author Jane Brotanek of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, bottle feeding children for too long can cause them to drink too much milk and juice. These foods are low in iron and prevent children from eating higher-iron foods such as beans, enriched bread, green leafy vegetables, eggs and meat.

"Excessive milk or juice intake, prolonged bottle-feeding, snacking and junk food intake might contribute," the authors wrote.

Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, or low red blood cell and hemoglobin count. Anemia, in turn, can cause harm to young children's mental and motor development.

"What you put in your baby's bottle can affect your child's future," Brotanek said.

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