Chronic iron intake and diarrhoeal disease in infants. A field study in a less-developed country

Eur J Clin Nutr. 1993 May;47(5):317-26.


The effect of chronic iron intake on diarrhoeal disease was evaluated in children in a community of low socio-economic stratum in Santiago, Chile. Children were incorporated into each of two consecutive cohorts; each cohort was divided into two groups, one receiving iron-enriched milk (12 mg/l) (monthly average = 70 children) and the other a control milk (1 mg/l) (monthly average = 83 children), and each cohort was followed up for 6 months. The incidence of diarrhoea was higher among the iron-supplemented children (30.4 vs 25.5 episodes/100 children/month, P < 0.025). This was mainly due to results obtained in infants 3-8 months of age during the summer months. Supplemented infants had more bowel movements on day 1 (P < 0.03) and liquid or semi-liquid stools were passed for more than 15 days more frequently (P < 0.05). While no differences were detected in aetiology, Shigella-associated episodes were less common among iron-supplemented infants (P < 0.008). Asymptomatic shedding of enteropathogens significantly increased in infants 12-18 months of age receiving iron-supplemented milk. In areas with inadequate environmental sanitation, chronic iron supplementation may have negative effects on diarrhoeal morbidity, despite improving iron nutritional status.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Chile / epidemiology
  • Developing Countries*
  • Diarrhea, Infantile / chemically induced
  • Diarrhea, Infantile / epidemiology*
  • Diarrhea, Infantile / microbiology
  • Ferrous Compounds / administration & dosage
  • Ferrous Compounds / adverse effects*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Food, Fortified / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Milk*
  • Seasons
  • Socioeconomic Factors


  • Ferrous Compounds
  • ferrous sulfate