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Infant formula as effective as iron medicine

Media Release
5 August 2005

Study finds infant formula as effective as iron medicine in reducing anaemia

A trial by researchers at The University of Auckland’s Department of Paediatrics has found iron deficiency in young children can be treated as effectively with iron-fortified formula as it can with iron medicine.

The study involved 234 babies and toddlers aged between nine months and two years who had been hospitalised at Auckland’s Starship Hospital with acute infections.

An article about the study has been published in the on-line edition of the Archives of Diseases in Childhood, the official journal of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and is due for print publication later this year.

Associate Professor Cameron Grant, who led the study, says many infants and children admitted to Starship with acute bacterial and viral infections such as pneumonia or gastro-enteritis, also have iron deficiency anaemia.

“Although our usual treatment is to prescribe iron medicine for three months, we know this treatment is not always followed through and the iron deficiency remains.

“Follow-on formula milk has the advantage of becoming a normal part of the child’s daily diet and has the additional benefits of containing other micro-nutrients that these sick young children need.

“The formula is easier to give to children than iron medicine which can cause stomach upsets, diarrhoea and constipation,” he says.

In the study, carried out in collaboration with researchers from Massey University, one third of the children were given the usual iron medicine, one third were given iron-fortified toddler follow-on milk and the final third were given iron-fortified, partially-modified cows milk.

After three months it was found that the proportion of babies with iron deficiency anaemia decreased significantly in all three groups, with the iron follow-on formula as effective as the iron medicine.

Iron deficiency has a number of adverse effects on health. These include impaired learning, reduced weight gain, impaired absorption of nutrients and decreased ability to exercise.


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