Iron deficiency anaemia is recognised as a common problem in young children in the
UK (Department of Health, 1994), and even more in Saudi Arabia (Al-Fawaz, 1993
and Al-Hifzi, et al. 1996). However, there is a lack of studies showing how food
intake affects iron status in young children in these countries. Such studies are
urgently needed to develop informed prevention strategies.
These studies have sought to assess iron intake in young children (8-36 months),
to identify nutritional and other factors that may affect iron intake and iron status and
to ascertain whether a food frequency questionnaire can be designed to identify those
at risk due to their diet.
A 4-day weighed food inventory, a semi-quantitative food frequency and social
questionnaire and anthropometric measurements were used.
Haemoglobin (Hb ), mean corpuscular volume (MCV), serum ferritin (SF), mean
corpuscular haemoglobin (MCH), mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentration
(MCHC) and haematocrit (Hct) were estimated in blood, Compeat-5, food analysis
software was used to calculate nutrient intakes and SPSS and Excel for data
STUDIES IN RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA:
104 healthy children randomly chosen from eight different health centres have been
studied either longitudinally (n=55) or cross-sectionally (n=49). The prevalence of
iron deficiency anaemia was 36.3% in all children. Diet including iron intake has
been compared to haematological data. Twenty four previously diagnosed iron
deficient children from three hospitals were also studied.
STUDIES IN EDINBURGH:
62 healthy children aged 9 and 36 months old were studied. They were those whose
parents agreed to participate from a larger number chosen randomly from children
registered at three health centres in Edinburgh using the Lothian Health Board list.
Diet including iron intake has been compared to haematological data.
ROYAL HOSPITAL FOR SICK CHILDREN (RHSC):
Over a 2 months period, the prevalence of anaemia period in children whose blood
samples were analysed in the Haematology Department was 28.3% in children aged
between 8 months to 3 years of age. In 59 children, 45 with Hb below 11 g/dl, and 14
with normal Hb whose parents completed a semi-quantitative food frequency and
social questionnaire, the iron intake and iron status was studied in detail, and the
results related to the haematological parameters previously measured.
Iron intakes less than both the Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) and the Lower
Recommended Nutrient Intake (LRNI) have been shown to be common in the
children studied in both Saudi Arabia and Edinburgh. Comparison of the
haematological parameters with the iron intake enables certain definite statements to
be made. Fortified breakfast cereals with iron and meat in addition to infant formula
are important dietary factors which positively influence iron intake and iron status in
this age group who are vulnerable to iron deficiency anaemia. These foods should be
strongly recommended to parents for inclusion in the post-weaning diet of children
of this age. In contrast, extended exclusive breast feeding, milk and some milk
products and eggs have a negative influence on iron intake, and should be avoided as
far as possible for at least the first year of life. The importance of haem iron as a
component of the diet of children of the ages studied is evident from these studies. It
has been shown that a food frequency questionnaire can be used to identify children