October 5th, 2010
12:01 AM ET

Kids in the U.S. still aren't getting enough iron

Iron helps build strong muscles and is essential for healthy blood. And it's especially important for babies, because without iron the body can't make red blood cells and doesn't get the oxygen it needs to grow.

But according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, iron deficiency in children is a major problem. But parents often don't know because experts say the tests for iron deficiency aren't reliable. In a clinical report released at the National Conference & Exhibition of the American Academy of Pediatrics in San Francisco, the AAP renewed guidelines to increase iron intake in infants and children, and to improve screening methods.

"Iron deficiency remains common in the United States," said Dr. Frank Greer, former chair of the AAP Committee on Nutrition and co-author of the clinical report. "And now we know more about the long-term, irreversible effects it can have on children's cognitive and behavioral development. It's critical to children's health that we improve their iron status starting in infancy."

Currently, children have their blood iron checked between 9 and 12 months of age, and again between 15 and 18 months. But doctors say the test is imperfect, and that it can miss many youngsters with iron deficiencies.

Now the AAP is revising its guidelines to increase iron intake in children, as well as looking to improve screening methods for the deficiency.

The revised guidelines say healthy infants are born with enough iron stored in their bodies for the first 4 months of life. Because human breast milk contains very little iron, breast-fed infants should be supplemented with 1 milligram per day of oral iron beginning at 4 months, along with iron rich baby foods.  Formula babies are fine, but should not be given whole milk before 12 months.

After that, children up to a year should be fed an iron supplement, along with foods rich in iron, such as red meat and vegetables. Toddlers to adolescents, should be given chewable multivitamins with iron along with an iron enriched diet. Items such as red meat, iron enriched cereals and pastas, tuna, seafood, beans and spinach, are all rich in iron.

"Ideally, we would prevent iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia with a diet consisting of foods that are naturally rich in iron," said Dr. Robert Baker, member of the executive committee of the AAP Section on Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition, and co-author of the report. "Feeding older infants and toddlers foods like meat, shellfish, legumes and iron-rich fruits and vegetables, as well as iron-fortified cereals and fruits rich in vitamin C, which help iron absorption, can help prevent iron deficiency," he said. "In some cases, children will still need liquid iron supplements or chewable vitamins to get the iron they need."

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Floris

    Anthropology tells us that as soon as we started eating grains, there was a reduction in stature and lifespan and an increase in infant mortality, infectious diseases, iron deficiency, bone mineral disorders and dental caries. Due to the phytates in grains, the bio-availability of calcium, iron, copper, magnesium and zinc is low. Iron deficiency causes anemia, increases infection and prenatal mortality and reduces the mental growth in children. Shortage of zinc can result in blocked growth, reduced activity of ovaries and testes and delayed start of puberty. Regardless iron deficiency there are more reasons to avoid grains, you can read it here http://bit.ly/cyKHre

    October 5, 2010 at 03:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WOW

      Anthropology that speas on this has zero proof of any of that. This is an AMERICAN ISSUE! Do you get that through your thick skull? Americans with all the available knowledge and endless options for variety foods still eat crap and do not take care of their bodies. This is a moral issue. NO ONE OF should have half the illnesses we have here and yet we are as sick as a third world country. WAKE UP!

      October 5, 2010 at 12:48 | Report abuse |
  2. Billshut

    I believe what Floris is trying to say is, "EAT MORE RED MEAT!!!" I will happily comply!! 🙂

    October 5, 2010 at 07:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • gnodges

      Enjoy your heart disease.......

      October 6, 2010 at 15:40 | Report abuse |
  3. dawn

    I was iron deficient while pregnant. Then I noticed one day how much more energetic I felt after eating a big juicy steak. Vegetables helped some but didn't give me the almost instant energy relief that meat did. After that, I took iron supplements and felt even better.

    Kids are iron deficient because of poor diets. Most parents would not even consider taking their kids out to eat and feeding them ice cream and cake for dinner. Yet many will take kids out every single day for nuggets, fries and burgers along with soda pop and think nothing of it. How crazy is that?!?!!? So of course kids are anemic. Even fast food meat is not that nutritous.

    Fast food should be seen in the same light as candy, since that's all it is. Just another form of candy except without the sugar rush.

    October 5, 2010 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. GT66

    Cook with cast iron. It's well known that cast iron cooking is a great way to increase dietary iron.

    October 5, 2010 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Dewayne

    Another knee jerk response to tests that are "imperfect". If the testing to determine actual deficiencies were perfected and the actual testing of foods was conducted, the population would have a better chance of becoming healthy. The testing of foods was done back in the fifties, but these values do not compare with the foods of today. Research dollars are scarce and the need to publish is so great, that most of the time the data is corrupt. Not long ago the Vitamin D level was thought to be too low, and there was discussion about raising the RDA. Show me a study where the Vitamin D level is actually tested, or any other vitamin for that matter, and I will show someone who is cooking the data. Good Health

    October 5, 2010 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. vikkki

    Cream of Wheat is also a good source of iron. I add dates or raisins, nuts and a little brown sugar (or agave syrup sometimes, its expensive). My 2 yr old loves it!

    October 5, 2010 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nasty

      I hate oatmeal that's disgusting

      October 5, 2010 at 17:09 | Report abuse |
  7. Teri Burnett

    The article is a bit misleading regarding iron in formula vs. breast milk. Although there is less iron in breast milk than in formula, less is actually required because iron in breast milk is much more readily absorbed than iron in food and in formula.

    October 5, 2010 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. SueDS

    If children are iron deficient, why has iron been removed from children's chewable vitamins? I recently bought a big bottle and was surprised to later notice a "No Iron" label on it. The first thing I thought was that it was in response to that ill-conceived law about removing iron from all things child related. Surely vitamins aren't included on the "no iron" list? 🙂

    October 5, 2010 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Capt. NoDuh

      Too much Iron in a child's diet causes the feared head banging syndrome that becomes prevalent in the teenage years and an unexplainable desire to listening to heavy metal.

      October 5, 2010 at 14:20 | Report abuse |
    • Troll

      Too much iron can lead to iron poisoning, which can result in death. It is silly to take the iron out of children's supplements; there isn't enough iron in a whole bottle of children's supplements to give a child iron poisoning.

      October 6, 2010 at 17:28 | Report abuse |
  9. i love red meat

    I love red meat, just ask my ol lady. once you start having sex your iron should double.

    October 5, 2010 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Rose

    Dawn, GT66 and Teri – you are all soooo correct. I agree. Everyone else, re-read their comments and take heed !

    October 5, 2010 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Natures Pharmacy

    Memories of being iron deficient as a child and during pregnacy, although eating a healthy diet, helped me realize the importance of supplementing with a multi-vit with iron. Today I recomment the best supplements available for kids at: http://www.naturespharmacy.isotonix.com Kid's love the Might-A-Mins Spectrum Isotonix Multi-vit!!

    October 5, 2010 at 22:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. IronThis

    Actually, there is enough iron in a whole bottle of children's supplements to give a child iron poisoning. My friend's brother was hospitalized and almost died as a result of eating an entire bottle of Flinstones vitamins when he was 5.

    October 7, 2010 at 10:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. lose weight sleeping

    Nice read. Thanks !

    February 14, 2011 at 04:11 | Report abuse | Reply

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