Iron deficiency; Pernicious anemia
Iron found in foods is either in the form of heme or non-heme iron:
The absorption of non-heme iron often depends on the food balances in meals. The following foods and cooking methods can enhance absorption of iron:
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of iron for people who are not iron deficient varies by age group and other risk factors. (Iron supplements are rarely recommended in people without evidence of iron deficiency or anemia.) The RDA recommends these daily amounts of iron:
The main source of iron for an infant from birth to 1 year of age is in milk, from breast milk, iron-fortified infant formula, or cereal. The best methods for preventing iron deficiency during infancy are:
Breast-feeding and Iron-Supplemented Formulas. Mothers should be encouraged to breast-feed their babies for their first year. Up to half of the iron in breast milk is absorbed by the baby and is sufficient to prevent anemia for the first 4 - 6 months, assuming that the mother had adequate iron stores during pregnancy. Breast milk itself is low in iron, but if the mother's diet is healthy, vitamin C and lactose in the breast milk may enhance iron absorption. Breast-fed babies should have iron supplements after 4 - 6 weeks, even if they are still nursing.
Infants who are not breast-fed should start with iron-fortified formulas (7-12 mg/L). Most doctors strongly discourage the use of low-iron formulas (less than 4.0 mg/L). Parents should discuss the best formula with their doctor. Children given iron supplements may have a slightly higher risk for diarrhea. Experts advise against cow's milk for the first year of life. When cereals are begun, they should be iron fortified.
Recommendations for Toddlers. Toddlers who did not have iron supplements during infancy should be checked for iron deficiency. After the first year, children should be given a varied diet that is rich in sources of iron, B vitamins, and vitamin C. Milk does not contain enough iron and can decrease children's appetite for iron-rich foods. Toddlers older than 1 year should not drink more than 2 cups of milk a day. A preference for apple juice over vitamin-C rich orange juice does not reduce iron absorption in children with any otherwise healthy diet.
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