Long-lasting neural and behavioral effects of iron deficiency in infancy

Nutr Rev. 2006 May;64(5 Pt 2):S34-43; discussion S72-91. doi: 10.1301/nr.2006.may.s34-s43.


Infants are at high risk for iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia. This review summarizes evidence of long-term effects of iron deficiency in infancy. Follow-up studies from preschool age to adolescence report poorer cognitive, motor, and social-emotional function, as well as persisting neurophysiologic differences. Research in animal models points to mechanisms for such long-lasting effects. Potential mechanisms relate to effects of iron deficiency during brain development on neurometabolism, myelination, and neurotransmitter function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / complications*
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cognition
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Growth and Development
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / etiology
  • Myelin Sheath / physiology
  • Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology


  • Neurotransmitter Agents