(HealthDay News) – Early iron supplementation in low birth weight (LBW) infants is not associated with cognitive function at age 3.5 years, but correlates with a reduction in the prevalence of behavioral problems, according to a study published online Dec. 10 in Pediatrics.

Staffan K. Berglund, MD, PhD, from Umeå University in Sweden, and colleagues randomized 285 marginally LBW (2,000–2,500g) infants to receive 0, 1, or 2mg/kg/day of iron supplements. Infants were treated from 6 weeks–6 months of age and were assessed at 3.5 years with the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Results were compared to those of 95 normal birth weight controls.

With respect to IQ, the researchers found that there were no significant differences between the LBW groups, or when comparing LBW infants and controls. Iron supplementation did have a significant effect on behavioral problems, with the prevalence of children with behavioral problems (CBCL scores above the U.S. subclinical cut-off) 12.7% in the placebo group, 2.9% in the 1mg group, and 2.7% in the 2mg groups, compared with 3.2% in controls. In placebo-treated children vs. supplemented infants the relative risk for CBCL score above cut-off was 4.5.

“Early iron supplementation of marginally LBW infants does not affect cognitive functions at 3.5 years of age but significantly reduces the prevalence of behavioral problems,” the authors write. “Because marginally LBW is a relatively common condition, a reduction in behavioral problems is likely to have significant public health benefits.”

The iron drops used in the study were provided by Astra Zeneca.

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