BOSTON — Children who suffered from anemia as infants score lower than usual on mental and coordination tests when they enter school, even though their iron deficiency has been corrected, according to a study reported Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The research, conducted in Costa Rica, confirms other recent studies showing a link between childhood anemia and developmental problems.
Iron deficiency affects an estimated 25% of babies born around the world.
The latest work is based on 163 children who were tested for iron deficiency as infants and treated, if necessary. When checked again five years later, "children who had moderately severe iron deficiency anemia as infants . . . had lower scores on tests of mental and motor functioning at school entry than the rest of the children."
The study was directed by Dr. Betsy Lozoff of Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland.
Even though the research suggests a link, it does not prove that a youngster's slow development is caused by lack of iron. The anemic babies tended to be smaller at birth, were weaned from breast feeding earlier and came from less stimulating home environments.
These and other factors, such as additional nutritional deficiencies, could have played a part in their poor test results.