(HealthDay News) – Chronic iron deficiency in infancy has a negative effect on adulthood function, according to a study published online June 28 in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Betsy Lozoff, MD, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues compared outcomes for 33 adults aged 25 years with chronic iron deficiency in infancy and 89 who were iron-sufficient before and/or after receiving iron therapy.

The researchers found that, compared with the iron-sufficient group, a higher proportion of the chronic iron deficiency group did not complete secondary school (58.1% vs. 19.8%; P=0.003), were not pursuing further education or training (76.1% vs. 31.5%; P=0.08), and were single (83.9% vs. 23.7%; P=0.03), after adjustment for sex and socioeconomic status. The chronic iron deficiency group reported poorer emotional health, including more negative emotions and feelings of dissociation/detachment. In a secondary analysis comparing the chronic iron deficiency group with subjects in the iron-sufficient group who had been iron-deficient before treatment, results were similar. Chronic iron deficiency was indirectly linked to not completing secondary school, via poorer cognitive functioning in early adolescence, and chronic iron deficiency was indirectly linked to more negative emotions via behavior problems in adolescence.

“The observational nature of this study limits our ability to draw causal inference, even when controlling for background factors,” the authors write. “Nonetheless, our results indicate substantial loss of human potential. There may be broader societal implications, considering that many adults worldwide had chronic iron deficiency in infancy.”

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