Naturopaths and Nutritionists have long recognized the important of iron in children, particularly for those with behavioral issues such as ADD or ADHD.
A 2004 study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, found that 84 percent of children with ADHD had significantly lower levels of iron, compared with 18 percent of kids without ADHD. The lower the levels of ferritin — a protein found inside cells that store iron — the more severe the symptoms.
Iron has a lot of important roles in the body, it helps us to carry oxygen into our cells which supports our energy levels, but it is also involved with dopamine production, an important neurotransmitter.
In children the iron deficiency isn’t always obvious. Commonly we recognize iron deficiency by symptoms of anemia (e.g. pale and fatigued), but it can present itself as a completely different symptoms – being hyperactive, aggressive and inattentive. It could also present as strange cravings for ice (this is known as PICA) or other things that aren’t food such as dirt or bark (this happens a lot during pregnancy as well).
Don’t supplement without having your levels checked, in particular your ferritin (iron stores). Some people have a condition which causes iron to store in the body, so supplementing with iron in these instances is toxic. When children with ADD/ADHD who had no iron deficiency were given iron supplements there was no change in their behaviour.
In these instances, low iron levels weren’t always caused by insufficient iron intake. Other factors such as poor absorption of iron, or interference with iron absorption from competing minerals or parasites can also occur. It has also been observed children who have difficult absorbing iron are more frequently born to mothers who had iron deficiency problems during pregnancy.
Iron supplements that are based on the cheaper forms of iron such as ferrous fumarate can cause constipation in some individuals.
Iron will absorb better alongside Vitamin C, and with an acidic meal (e.g. take with a glass or orange juice).
Iron Supplements Reduce ADHD in Low Birth Weight Infants
This study performed in Sweden gave 285 marginally low birth weight infants either 0, 1 or 2 mg/kg per day of iron supplements from 6 weeks to 6 months of age. At age three-and-a-half, these infants and 95 who had a normal birth weight were assessed for intelligence and behavior. They found no significant different in the IQ of the children, but they did find that those who were low-birth weight who had been supplemented with iron had big reduction in ADHD symptoms, which increased slightly with the increased dose of iron. Of the low birth weight infants who received no iron supplements, 12.7 percent showed signs of behavior problems, compared to 2.9 percent of infants in the 1-mg group and 2.7 percent of the 2-mg group. In the control group, 3.2 percent of children showed signs of behavioral problems.
SK Berglund, B Westrup, B Hägglöf, O Hernell, M Domellöf. Effects of Iron Supplementation of LBW Infants on Cognition and Behavior at 3 Years. Pediatrics, Dec. 10 2012[fb_button]