January 30, 2016 – Low-Dose Iron Supplementation in Infancy Modestly Increases Infant Iron Status at 9 Months without Decreasing Growth or Increasing Illness in a Randomized Clinical Trial in Rural China
Background: Previous trials of iron supplementation in infancy did not consider maternal iron supplementation.
Objective: This study assessed effects of iron supplementation in infancy and/or pregnancy on infant iron status, illnesses, and growth at 9 mo.
Methods: Enrollment occurred from December 2009 to June 2012 in Hebei, China. Infants born to women in a pregnancy iron supplementation trial were randomly assigned 1:1 to iron [∼1 mg Fe/(kg ⋅ d) as oral iron proteinsuccynilate] or placebo from 6 wk to 9 mo, excluding infants with cord ferritin <35 μg/L. Study groups were pregnancy placebo/infancy placebo (placebo/placebo), pregnancy placebo/infancy iron (placebo/iron), pregnancy iron/infancy placebo (iron/placebo), and pregnancy iron/infancy iron (iron/iron). The primary outcome was 9-mo iron status: iron deficiency (ID) by cutoff (≥2 abnormal iron measures) or body iron <0 mg/kg and ID + anemia (hemoglobin <110 g/L). Secondary outcomes were doctor visits or hospitalizations and weight or length gain from birth to 9 mo. Statistical analysis by intention to treat and dose-response (between number of iron bottles received and outcome) used logistic regression with concomitant RRs and general linear models, with covariate control as applicable.
Results: Of 1482 infants randomly allocated, 1276 had 9-mo data (n = 312–327/group). Iron supplementation in infancy, but not pregnancy, reduced ID risk: RRs (95% CIs) were 0.89 (0.79, 0.998) for placebo/iron compared to placebo/placebo, 0.79 (0.63, 0.98) for placebo/iron compared to iron/placebo, 0.87 (0.77, 0.98) for iron/iron compared to placebo/placebo, and 0.86 (0.77, 0.97) for iron/iron compared to iron/placebo. However, >60% of infants still had ID at 9 mo. Receiving more bottles of iron in infancy was associated with better infant iron status at 9 mo but only among iron-supplemented infants whose mothers were also iron supplemented (i.e., the iron/iron group). There were no group differences in hospitalizations or illnesses and no adverse effects on growth overall or among infants who were iron sufficient at birth.
Conclusions: Iron supplementation in Chinese infants reduced ID at 9 mo without adverse effects on growth or illness. Effects of iron supplementation in pregnancy were observed only when higher amounts of iron were distributed in infancy.