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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Terrible to Read 14% of US Toddlers are Iron Deficient

By Michael McBurney

As one of the richest countries in the world, the United States infant mortality rate is higher than the other 27 wealthiest countries. Babies born in the US are 3 times more likely to die during their first year than one born in Finland or Japan.

The most common nutrient deficiency among infants and children worldwide is iron. Iron deficiency delays cognitive development. According to new data (NHANES 2007-2010), ~14% of US toddlers (1-2y) and 7% of children 1-5y are iron deficient. These percentages are not calculated from self-reported dietary intakes, they are determined using nutritional biochemistry measurements in almost 1,200 children. Gupta and colleagues claim there has been no progress in changing the prevalence of iron deficiency and anemia among US children over the past decade.

Iron deficiency delays brain and immune development of children, leading to a lifelong impact. Inequalities in education and unemployment, exacerbated by poverty, housing, transportation and labor markets within communities, are the primary social determinants of many health inequalities. As an example, more children are born with birth defects, perinatal conditions, and die before 1y of age in poor nonmetro vs affluent metro communities.

Although Singh and Siahpush (2014) report widening gaps in life expectancy between metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, the country is heterogenous. While measles and chicken pox are contagious and create outbreaks when parents do not have their children vaccinated, shared values within communities may affect the risk of childhood nutrient deficiencies. Unless toddlers are fed red meat or iron-fortified Iron-fortified foods, they aren’t likely to consume enough iron. Children 1-3y old require 7 mg of iron daily.

Check the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements website for food sources with iron.

Main Citation

Gupta PM, Perrine CG, Mei Z, Scanlon KS. Iron, anemia, and iron deficiency anemia among young children in the United States. 2016 Nutrients doi: 10.3390/nu8060330

Other Citations

Singh GK, Siahpush M. Widening rural-urban disparities in life expectancy, US, 1969-2009. 2014 Am J Prev Med doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.10.017