American researchers report that children with low levels of iron as infants may grow up with brain deficiencies, even if they get early treatment. Their study of 185 teens from Costa Rica indicates that babies with severe iron deficiency never fully recovered on tests of learning, memory and thinking. The report highlights the importance of early nutrition for babies, the researchers said.

Up to 25% of children around the world have iron deficiency anemia, in which a lack of iron causes problems with red blood cells.

In a related study, researchers found that kids who kept drinking cow’s milk from bottles past the age of one year were more likely to be iron-deficient than babies the same age who drank from a cup. Among 150 healthy children, aged 12 to 38 months who drank unfortified cow’s milk, 37% of bottle-fed babies and 18% of the cup-fed children had lower than desired iron levels.

“The bottle may act as a vehicle for excessive milk consumption, which may compromise iron absorption or the intake of iron-rich foods or juices,” the researchers wrote.

Source: Reuters Health, Nov 6, 2006