There is controversy over whether healthy infants have a requirement for dietary iron until the age of 4-6 months. Although most infant formulas are fortified with iron, there are some unfortified ones reflecting the uncertainty over requirements in very young infants. After the age of 4-6 months or when birth weight has doubled, iron requirements are very high. Levels of iron in breast milk are low, although bioavailability is high. Nevertheless, infants exclusively breast-fed after the age of 6 months have lower iron stores than those who receive a fortified formula or iron-containing complementary foods. Cow's milk is low in iron and the iron is poorly absorbed. Infants fed on cow's milk as a main drink younger than the age of 1 year or who consume large quantities of cow's milk after the age of 1 year are at risk of developing iron deficiency. Iron is required in early life not only for adequate growth but also because it is important in brain growth, and iron deficiency during infancy may lead to irreversible changes in mental and motor development. It is estimated that 43% of infants and children worldwide suffer from iron deficiency in infancy and childhood, most commonly between the ages of 6 and 24 months. The problem is worse in developing countries: The prevalence in Western industrialized countries is

Table 9 Recommendations for trace minerals



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