Ethnic variance in iron status: is it related to dietary intake?

Public Health Nutr. 2009 Sep;12(9):1413-21. doi: 10.1017/S1368980008004187. Epub 2008 Dec 17.


Objective: In New Zealand (NZ), Fe deficiency (ID) is present in 14% of children aged <2 years. Prevalence varies with ethnicity (NZ European 7%, Pacific 17%, Maori 20%). We describe dietary Fe intake, how this varies with ethnicity and whether intake predicts Fe status.

Design: A random sample of children aged 6-23 months. Usual Fe intake and dietary sources were estimated from 2 d weighed food records. Associations were determined between adequacy of Fe intake, as measured by the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR), and ID.

Subjects: Sampling was stratified by ethnicity. Dietary and blood analysis data were available for 247 children.

Results: The median daily Fe intake was 8.3 mg (age 6-11 months) and 6.3 mg (age 12-23 months). Breast milk and milk formulas (median 58%; age 6-11 months), and cereals (41%) and fruit and vegetables (17%; age 12-23 months), were the predominant dietary sources of Fe. Fe intake was below the EAR for 25% of the children. Not meeting the EAR increased the risk of ID for children aged 6-11 months (relative risk = 18.45, 95% CI 3.24, 100.00) and 12-23 months (relative risk = 4.95, 95% CI 1.59, 15.41). In comparison with NZ European, Pacific children had a greater daily Fe intake (P = 0.04) and obtained a larger proportion of Fe from meat and meat dishes (P = 0.02).

Conclusions: A significant proportion of young NZ children have inadequate dietary Fe intake. This inadequate intake increases the risk of ID. Ethnic differences in Fe intake do not explain the increased risk of ID for Pacific children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Availability
  • Diet Records
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Iron, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Iron, Dietary / pharmacokinetics
  • Male
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Nutritional Status / ethnology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Iron, Dietary
  • Iron