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The iron laws of infant nutrition

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The emphasis should be placed on eating a healthy The emphasis should be placed on eating a healthy diet which includes a variety of foods that contain iron

Lack of iron is the most common mineral deficiency in the UK.1 The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommends that all healthcare professionals are familiar with the symptoms and how to intervene if they suspect iron deficiency.2 This article looks briefly at iron metabolism and iron deficiency anaemia and how primary care nurses can help parents ensure their child’s diet includes enough iron to prevent dietary iron deficiency.

Iron is an essential mineral. It is commonly known to be part of haemoglobin (carrying oxygen around the body), myoglobin (storing iron in muscle) and is also part of many enzymes. Most iron absorption takes place in the duodenum and jejunum and it is transferred into the circulation, where it is taken to cells or bone marrow for production of red blood cells.3 Absorption is enhanced in people who are deficient of iron and limited in those who are replete.3

Iron deficiency anaemia
The WHO describes iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) as anaemia (low haemoglobin levels) due to iron deficiency (low ferritin levels), which is the result of a long-term negative iron balance.4

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