Detecting iron deficiency during pregnancy and in young children is crucial–WHO

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  • Detecting iron deficiency early during pregnancy and in young children is crucial
  • Iron is an essential element with important functions such as oxygen transport, DNA synthesis, and muscle metabolism
  • The WHO warned that iron deficiency in children under two years of age can have significant and irreversible effects on brain development

Detecting iron deficiency early during pregnancy and in young children is crucial, the World Health Organization (WHO) noted; warning that iron deficiency in children under two years of age can have significant and irreversible effects on brain development.

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“This can lead to negative consequences on learning and school performance later in life. Cognitive development of a child can also be affected if a mother is iron deficient during her last trimester of pregnancy,” the WHO statement explained.

Iron is an essential element with important functions such as oxygen transport, DNA synthesis, and muscle metabolism. Iron deficiency is the main cause of anemia, which is the most prevalent nutritional deficiency worldwide, affecting 33 percent of non-pregnant women, 40 percent of pregnant women, and 42 percent of children worldwide.

“In adults, iron deficiency can also have negative effects including fatigue, impaired physical performance and decreased work productivity, as well as impacting social activities. Iron deficiency occurs mainly when the requirements of iron increase during rapid periods of growth and development such as in early childhood, adolescence and pregnancy, but it can occur at other stages in life,” it was noted.

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Meanwhile, the international organization said improved knowledge about the prevalence and distribution of iron deficiency and risk of iron overload in the population helps countries to decide on appropriate interventions, and to monitor and evaluate the impact and safety of public health programmes.

The guidelines, it said, also aim to help WHO Member States and their partners to make evidence-informed decisions on appropriate actions in their efforts to lower iron deficiency and improve the health and quality of life of individuals and populations.