Iron supplementation can help children improve their verbal learning and memory, American researchers have found. It could have a profound effect on educational performance because 25 per cent of adolescent girls in America are deficient in iron.
Iron deficiency is a worldwide problem, affecting about 20 per cent of the world population in developed and developing countries, which can impair physical endurance, work capacity, infant growth and development, while depressing immune function.
For the latest experiment, researchers from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore studied 73 girls from local schools who were all deficient in iron; half were given 650 mg of oral ferrous sulphate twice a day, while the rest were given a placebo. After eight weeks, both sets were tested for their verbal learning and memory, and those who had been given the supplements performed better. Neither showed any improvement in attention, however, even though other studies have also found this to be a benefit of iron supplementation.
!AThe Lancet, 1996; 348: 992-6).