Increased iron intakes may improve mental performance of anemic children

November 15, 2013

A new review from Canada suggests that a daily supplementation with iron may support the cognitive performance and physical development of primary-school children suffering from anemia.

The review and meta-analysis included data from 32 randomized controlled trials, involving more than 7,089 children (aged 5 to 12 years), which investigated the effects of iron supplementation on physical and mental health (1). The analysis showed that children with anemia who received iron supplements showed significant- ly better cognitive functions (with regard to attention and concentration) and IQ test results, were slightly taller, and showed an improved weight-for-age compared to anemic children without an adequate iron intake. In addition, a daily supplementation reduced the prevalence of anemia by 50% and the prevalence of iron deficiency by 79%. The results indicated no adverse effects related to iron supplementation.

The researchers commented that, since cognitive performance is associated with educational achievement, higher future income and productivity, a regular supplementation with iron may benefit the economic poten- tial of anemic children. Approximately 25% of school-aged children worldwide are anemic. In half of these cases the cause of anemia is iron deficiency, which earlier research has shown to be associated with impaired mental and physical development (2).


  1. Low M. et al. Effects of daily iron supplementation in primary-school–aged children: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. CMAJ. Published online October 2013.
  2. Hermoso M. et al. The effect of iron on cognitive development and function in infants, children and adolescents: a systematic review. Ann Nutr Metab. 2011; 59(2–4):154–165.