Infants and children under 5 years of age constitute a risk group for the development of iron deficiency, as high requirements are frequently combined with a low intake of highly bioavailable iron. At this age, iron deficiency has been related to alterations in psychomotor development, among other disorders, and some of its effects may remain over time, despite the restoration of adequate iron levels. For this reason, strategies aimed at prevention are of the utmost importance.
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The fundamental pillar for the prevention of iron deficiency during infancy and early childhood is adequate dietary guidance. During the first 4-6 months of life, breast milk is able to adequately meet the requirements, and a fortified formula should be used as an alternative, if necessary. During diversification, it is recommended to introduce fortified cereals and meats early. In young children, the daily consumption of at least one serving of foods that provide highly bioavailable iron, properly combining them with others that promote its absorption, is important to achieve coverage of the requirements. Only when these are not covered by the usual diet, and in certain risk groups,
Infants and toddlers represent a risk population for iron deficiency (ID), due to their relatively high requirements, which are frequently associated with a poor intake of iron-rich foods. A possible association between ID and impaired cognitive and psychomotor development has been described, and it has been suggested that some of these effects can be irreversible. For this reason, prevention of ID has become a subject of much concern.
To promote an adequate dietetic iron intake is the most important approach for the prevention of ID. Exclusive breast-feeding provides adequate amounts of iron during the first 4-6 months of life, and iron-fortified formula should be used when an alternative is necessary. Fortified cereals and foods containing haem iron, such as meat, should be introduced early in complementary feeding. In toddlers, iron requirements can be satisfied with a daily consumption of at least one serving of iron-containing foods, along with enhancers of iron absorption. When daily requirements are not properly met by food intake, and in some high-risk populations, screening for ID and iron supplementation should be considered.