FRIDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) -- Although breast-feeding is generally considered the best way to nourish an infant, new research suggests that in the long term it may lead to lower levels of iron.
"What we found was that over a year of age, the longer the child is breast-fed, the greater the risk of iron deficiency," said the study's lead author, Dr. Jonathon Maguire, pediatrician and scientist at Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael's Hospital at the University of Toronto in Canada.
The study, released online April 15 in the journal Pediatrics, did not, however, find a statistical relationship between the duration of breast-feeding and iron deficiency anemia. Anemia is a condition in which the body has too few red blood cells.
Iron is an important nutrient, especially in children. It is vital for normal development of the nervous system and brain, according to background information included in the study. Growth spurts increase the body's need for iron, and infancy is a time of rapid growth.
The World Health Organization recommends breast-feeding exclusively for the first six months of life and then introducing complementary foods. The WHO endorses continued breast-feeding up to 2 years of age or longer, according to the study.
Previous studies have found an association between breast-feeding for longer than six months and reduced iron stores in youngsters. The current study sought to confirm that link in young, healthy urban children.
The researchers included data from nearly 1,650 children between 1 and 6 years old, with an average age of about 3 years. None of the children had any chronic conditions.
The odds of iron deficiency increased by about 5 percent for each additional month of breast-feeding.
The researchers also noted an association between greater daily cow's milk consumption and lower iron levels, according to
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