Intestinal blood loss as an aggravating factor of iron deficiency in infants aged 9 to 12 months fed whole cow's milk

J Clin Gastroenterol. 2008 Feb;42(2):152-6. doi: 10.1097/01.mcg.0000248007.62773.3a.


Goals: To verify the occurrence of occult intestinal blood loss and iron deficiency in infants aged 9 to 12 months.

Study: A consecutive sample of 98 infants of the Pediatric Public Health Primary Care Unit in the town of Arapongas, Parana State, Brazil was involved in this cross-sectional study. Dietary history, hemoglobin, serum iron, transferrin saturation, ferritin, and an occult fecal blood loss investigation, by the immune chromatographic method specific for human hemoglobin were performed.

Results: Presence of occult intestinal blood occurred in 8/23 of the breast-fed (plus complementary feed) infants and in 30/64 of the infants who were fed with cow's milk (plus complementary feed) (P=0.449). The comparison of body iron indicators in accordance to positive or negative occult fecal blood, did not show any significant difference in the 23 breast-fed infants. Serum ferritin (median=4.2 ng/mL) was significantly lower (P=0.004) in infants who received whole cow's milk and had positive occult fecal blood, than in those infants who received whole cow's milk but were without occult fecal blood (median=12.1 ng/mL).

Conclusions: In breast-fed infants with negative occult fecal blood, iron deficiency severity is not greater than in those with positive results. In infants fed whole cow's milk, occult fecal blood loss is an aggravating factor of iron deficiency.

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / etiology*
  • Animals
  • Breast Feeding
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / complications*
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Milk / adverse effects*
  • Occult Blood*