Effects of iron supplementation on cognitive development in school-age children : systematic review and meta-analysis

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Befikadu Tariku Gutema, Muluken Bekele Sorrie, Nega Degefa Megersa, Gesila Endashaw Yesera, Yordanos Gizachew Yeshitila, Nele Pauwels, Stefaan De Henauw, Souheila Abbeddou


Background: Iron deficiency is negatively associated with children’s cognitive development. Evidence showed that iron supplementation improves cognitive development. Nearly 50% of anemia is caused by iron deficiency. Anemia affects more school-age children, at an age where their brain development continues. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to review the evidence from published randomized controlled trials to evaluate the effects of iron supplementation on cognitive development and function among school-age children. Method: Five databases including MEDLINE, EMBASE, Scopus, Web of Science and CENTRAL were used to search for articles on April 20th, 2021. The search was reconducted on October 13th, 2022 to retrieve new records. Studies were eligible if they included school children 6–12 years of age, were randomized controlled trials, and if they tested iron supplementation and measured cognitive development. Result: Thirteen articles were included in the systematic review. Overall, iron supplementation significantly improved intelligence (standardized mean difference, 95% confidence interval) (SMD 0.46, 95%CI: 0.19, 0.73, P<0.001), attention and concentration (SMD 0.44, 95%CI: 0.07, 0.81, P = 0.02) and memory (SMD 0.44, 95%CI: 0.21, 0.67, P <0.001) of school-age children. There was no significant effect of iron supplementation on school achievement of school-age children (SMD 0.06, 95%CI: -0.15, 0.26, P = 0.56). In a subgroup analysis, iron-supplemented children who were anemic at baseline had had better outcomes of intelligence (SMD 0.79, 95%CI: 0.41, 1.16, P = 0.001) and memory (SMD 0.47, 95%CI: 0.13, 0.81; P = 0.006). Conclusion: Iron supplementation has a significant positive effect on the intelligence, attention and concentration, and the memory of school-age children but there was no evidence on the effect of iron supplementation on their school achievement.




Souheila Abbedou

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journal.pone.0287703.pdf (open)

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